In smartphones, native apps have proved to be more popular than web apps for their reliability and speed. We already knew that Google had big plans for its Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). These have been seen in Chrome since earlier this year, and more of them are becoming available all the time.
Google announced about a year ago that Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux would lose Chrome apps, but those apps would still work with Chrome OS. In the time since, we’ve seen some apps convert to extensions, but no steps were taken to get rid of apps entirely. Now, Google has completely removed the Chrome apps section from the Chrome Web Store.
As Google explained in its blog post last year, Chrome apps are being killed because no one uses them. In the post, Google said that “approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps.”
Google launched the Chrome Web Store for the Chrome web browser in 2010 letting users install extensions, themes, and Chrome Apps. However, the company then made a reversal on Chrome Apps as it announced in 2016 that it would phase out Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018.
Google is sending emails to developers notifying them of that change, and the company will be removing app functionality from Chrome entirely during Q1 of 2018, (except for on Chrome OS). The email confirms that Chrome Apps won’t be found anymore for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux and that Google intends for Progressive Web Apps to replace Chrome Apps.
“The Chrome team is now working to enable Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to be installed on the desktop. Once this functionality ships (roughly targeting mid-2018), users will be able to install web apps to the desktop and launch them via icons and shortcuts; similar to the way that Chrome Apps can be installed today.
In order to enable a more seamless transition from Chrome Apps to the web, Chrome will not fully remove support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac or Linux until after Desktop PWA installability becomes available in 2018. Timelines are still rough, but this will be a number of months later than the originally planned deprecation timeline of “early 2018”.
We also recognize that Desktop PWAs will not replace all Chrome App capabilities. We have been investigating ways to simplify the transition for developers that depend on exclusive Chrome App APIs, and will continue to focus on this – in particular the Sockets, HID and Serial APIs.”
What’s more, Google confirmed that its PWA’s wouldn’t be able to offer the full range of capabilities that Chrome Apps can, but said it was “investigating” ways to make the transition easier for developers whose apps are reliant on the pre-existing Chrome APIs.
Progressive Web Apps are web apps made to look and feel like native apps but using open technologies. They are cross-platform and cross-browser, and various companies have released PWA versions of their websites.
Progressive Web Apps again aim to bring a few app-like features to websites, giving them a full-screen interface, an “installable” app icon, push notifications, and offline capabilities.