Starting with the upcoming version 31, Chrome for Android Beta will support adding web apps to the home screen via an option in the overflow menu. These apps will still run in a sandboxed Chrome environment, but they will also be integrated with the operating system in a few interesting ways.

home_add home_home

Adding a supported web app to the homescreen will place a custom icon on the device, but this is more than a bookmark shortcut. The icon may look like a regular app icon, but tapping it brings up what is essentially a full-screen Chrome frame. You can also switch between web apps just like a native app (i.e. they are not lumped in with Chrome). The device will also alert users if the web app tries to send them to another domain.

home_full home_switcher

Developers can easily add the necessary tags to have their web apps supported by the new functionality. Chrome will also recognize iOS Safari's Add to Homescreen tag, but only for the time being – support for the “apple-mobile-web-app-capable” meta tag will be dropped in a later release.

[Google Developers, via Moshe Brevda]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • That guy

    This is seriously big news. I'm sure this will also open up the door to "Chrome store" on mobile devices :D?

  • jayray78

    Welcome to WebOS

    • CTT

      ... which iOS pre-dates by over a year.

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        I'm searching for your point...

        • CTT

          iOS has had this for a full year before WebOS existed.

          • Steven Schoen

            iOS 1 didn't have any webapp integration with the OS at all. I believe it was introduced in 4 or 5.

          • CTT

            iOS only had Web App integration before Apple finally released an App Store. You had no option but to use Web Apps until iOS 2.0 and the App Store.

          • Adrian Herman

            that's silly. in that case java had webos and all of the microsoft os ( who by the way had a touch screen phone before apple came to the sandbox).

          • PainToad

            @Steven Schoen, you are so ignorant.This functionality has been included since iOS 1.

          • http://ploogy.com/ Adam Brenecki

            Web Clips, the ability to add a web app to the home screen, were added in iOS 1.1.3 in January 2008. The full screen capability was added in 2.1 in September 2008.

      • jayray78

        ...and is irrelevant to the conversation as they are more invested in native apps than HTML5 apps. But thanks for you contribution.

      • René Simonsen

        And which iOS 7 pretty much breaks. iOS 7 breaks pretty much all of our webapps, and it's not a serious platform to update them to. We have to specifically tell our customers not to update to iOS 7.

  • mikeym0p

    Time for Facebook to make a web app and ditch the shoddy Android one.

    • naysayer

      I second that. In fact, I already use the mobile website instead of the app. Despite Facebook's claims, the "native" rewrite did nothing to boost app performance. Also, Facebook can't steal my addressbook if I don't use the app. The website is just so much better!

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      They had a web app. Their app was web-based until only a year ago, and it was utter, abysmal crap. That Facebook app you're complaining about right now? It's the IMPROVED version from when they finally went native. Seriously. You're asking them to go back to something that was actually insanely worse.

      • iboalali

        it's not completely native

      • Casin

        Some other devs using HTML5 showed off an HTML5 Facebook app that ran completely in the web browser and it ran smoother than Facebook's native app. Clearly it's Facebook's inefficiency that's the problem.

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          I'm well aware of that. But my point was that if they failed miserably to make a web app that ran well before, managed to make it MUCH better by going native while making it STILL crap, then clearly them moving BACK to a web app isn't exactly anything resembling a solution for them. Their solution is getting a proper mobile development team in place, in which case this entire point becomes moot.

        • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

          I'm very curious to know what web app was that, can you share the name/link please?

          • mikeym0p
          • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

            Interesting but this is a very limited demo and it doesn't run much faster than touch.facebook.com

          • mikeym0p

            It's kinda turning into vaporware, they promised to fully develop the desired features but then went dark. Back when it was out it was significantly faster than FB touch, granted this was back in Gingerbread days.

            Either FB picked up the technologies in their current touch site, or the extra resources on phones today negate the speed difference.

      • mikeym0p

        The 'improved' version can still use work, and according to recent findings most of the improvements was made just by switching to naitive code (as naitive as dalvik can get). Their mobile site still works best IMO, and web is also their forte.

        You also neglected the feature parity the Android version suffers from compared to the iOS one. If they ditch both apps and write on web app, that problem is gone. In addition to the speed (not smoothness, efficiency) problem on Android.

        Also Casin is on the same page as me. The 'power of HTML5' demo was exceptional compared to the Facebook app.

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          You managed to miss my point entirely. You suggested the Facebook team, the same team responsible for the terrible web-based app to begin with, followed by the less terrible native app, go BACK to a web-based app. That team has already proven themselves incapable of making a good web-based app.

          Also, I see no evidence that push notifications, and a lot of the more advanced functions of the Facebook app, would be possible if they went web-based.

          And what remaining feature parity issues are there? I'm not aware of any.

          • mikeym0p

            Who's to say they're incapable? To me it looked like they didn't take the Android platform seriously, and bet on it flopping.

            I can think of several ways to get push notifications working from a web app. It's been done before.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            They started taking Android seriously well before they made the switch. They finally made the switch because they couldn't figure out how to get it to run well as a web app, so gave up and moved to native.

            And I'm all ears about how these rich notifications would work, with calendar integration and the like, with a web app.

          • mikeym0p

            Here's a couple of backend utilities that enable push notifications:

            And look at Firefox OS, HTML5 at the core, I can see where you're coming from, a web app smartphone platform isn't far fetched.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            I think you and I are looking at the concept of notifications differently. At least at this stage, those services seem to provide real-time push TO the web page itself. Like a notifications throbber in the corner. They require the page be running and communicating with them in some way. That's very different from the app being closed and me getting a push notification in my notification bar letting me know I have an update that I then hit to open the app and load it.

  • duse

    Good for websites that you wish you could use in a slightly more app-like way, such as Grooveshark.

  • JPB

    Muahaha.....the Chromification of Android begins! And the "For Your Desktop" stuff on Chrome means that we're also seeing the Androidification of Chrome! Makes you wonder how soon the two will merge entirely.

    • QwietStorm

      Chromification. You should trademark that and sell it to Google.

      • atlouiedog

        Or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

        • jayray78

          Dream of Chromification.....Dream of Chromification!!!!

    • Jose Roman

      Good point, the word we can name this is Fusion, two different OS but fusioned to make compability in both platform. A good example are Goku and Vegeta, two guys that hate one of each other but when the fusion, they transform in Gogeta, one of the strongest character in Dragon Ball history...

      • jesusmbaez

        What you just said sir is amazing.

      • cy_n_ic

        The power level of this comment is over TEN THOUSAND!!!

      • Anders CT

        Awesome x 1000

      • bluesynk

        My mind is officially blown.

  • engray

    Is problem with rebooting while turning off screen with open chrome beta still occur?

  • gspida

    Can someone explain the benefits to this? Is it just for say some website that don't have an official app? Thanks in advance

    • naysayer

      I think some websites are a lot better than there app counterparts. This feature appifies the websites further which means you don't have to deal with the Chrome UI if you don't want to. This makes certain apps even more superfluous.
      I hope this feature sees some adoption.

    • Thomas’

      FirefoxOS (and other) are using HTML5 apps.

      My guess is that they want Chrome to be able to present these on Android as they're presented on FirefoxOS.

    • blahmoomoo

      One thing that I'll probably try doing immediately is making the Wikipedia mobile site a full screen app. The actual app is atrocious when it comes to things like tables, and I've already replaced it with a homescreen shortcut to the mobile site.

    • atlouiedog

      There are sites like imdb, wikipedia, and more that I use frequently but don't need an app for to worry about when backing up and restoring after a rom change, taking up space, scrolling through when managing apps, etc. The web counterpart works just as well or better. I'd rather have them added to a folder as a shortcut than opening up Chrome and then finding the bookmark or typing it in.

    • Anders CT

      Not much. For complex apps there is no benefit whatsoever. But a lot of apps are essentially just glorified homepages. Let them be homepages. It's a bookmark on your desktop. Nice, but nothing special.

  • heat361

    So I'm guessing the chrome store would eventually be merged into Google play. Also packaged apps for android is also coming.

    • Grimmjow

      Not in any near future. They've already said that.

      • Aaron Jaeger

        No, but eventually.

  • RedPandaAlex

    Nice. About time. Wonder if they'll talk about this with the kitkat announcement, because it's a big deal.

  • YodaRocks

    This is a HUGE development. But it brings us back to that Classic Conundrum: To Native or not to Native.

  • jaduncan

    No apk?

  • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

    So Google's great idea is to give you a way to run sites losing the access to the tabs and the address bar? Pff. How can one even write about it without criticizing the idea?

    Why don't you simply bookmark the page in Chrome? Oh, I know, because the bookmark manager su*ks and Google does nothing about it. Opera's Speed Dial FTW.

    • Victor Stuber

      The point of this is not to simply access a website but rather to start building web apps that can access your device's hardware and run without "chrome" as a fullscreen app. Imagine an app where you dont need to update it. When you open it, it has the latest version. Developers can deploy much much faster than publishing to an app store.

      • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

        "Imagine an app where you dont need to update it. When you open it, it has the latest version."
        This is what I call a website/webpage, and you're able to bookmark its URL and still have it open in the full-fledged web browser, if I want to open it in full screen I can do it. If it wants to access my hardware it can use the HTML5 APIs.

        • Victor Stuber

          Websites have to download all of the UI elements when you open it. Chrome apps download the "app" to your device. But whenever it's updated it just updates those resources on your device. Chrome apps are far different than websites.

          • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

            But the fact is that the current implementation in Chrome 31 doesn't offer that benefit. They are merely shortcuts which make you unable to use tabs and the address field (its seems).

            Point 2: isn't there any technology to make this possible on every browser? Regardless of the answer, you must agree with me when I say Google is bypassing web standards regularization process and encouraging developers to follow them blindly to their exclusive Chrome Web Store platform in which essentially Google robs the Web platform for themselves. And this isn't only a case of an app existing exclusively for Chrome, as we have apps/sites giving a different experience for Chrome users, using non-standardized features/code (Chrome-specific notifications / NaCl, etc), etc.

          • miri

            "It's so sad to receive multiple downvotes here... People really don't understand..."

            Or maybe you're just making a fuss over nothing. Sometimes there are web based apps and games that I wish I could use as though they were native (which is to say in full screen and separate in the recent apps screen). To reiterate, when using apps and playing games, I don't want the address bar and tabs; I want it to look at feel as though it were an app/game I downloaded from the Play Store. This is simply giving me the option to do that.

          • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

            All you want is a toggle to the full screen mode, I got this already. The discussion now is about Chrome packaged apps in the desktop.

          • miri

            "All you want is a toggle to the full screen mode, I got this already"

            Um, no. All of them would still be piled up in the browser and Chrome doesn't have a full screen toggle which would mean using a different browser and when I use a different browser I lose my favorite features and when I lose my favorite features I'm put in a bad mood and when I'm in a bad mood I get negligent and when I'm negligent I perform poorly at work and when I perform poorly at work I get fired and when I get fired I have to take out my frustration and when I take out my frustration I get fined and when I get fined I end up in some shady club dancing for dolla bills and when I dance in a shady club I get touched inappropriately and when I am touched inappropriately I assault the patron and when I assault patrons charges are filed and when charges are filed I am found guilty and end up in jail and when I end up in jail I become a hardened criminal and when I become a hardneded criminal I fall in with a gang and when I fall in with a gang I get into fire fights and when I get into fire fights I get capped and when I get capped the other gang members chop me up and feed me to their dogs because that's just how they roll. So, you'll have to forgive me if I don't want to take your advice.

            "The discussion now is about Chrome packaged apps in the desktop"

            Don't get me started.

          • Sergio

            Have you seen this? https://marketplace.firefox.com/
            I think Google is not exactly an anti-standards corp, do you? I think the point here is that you can make a webpage and easily pack it for chrome, firefox or whatever.

            Look at this (specially the note at the middle of the page): https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Apps/Developing/Packaged_apps

            And this: http://thenextweb.com/google/2013/03/26/chrome-web-store-to-get-multi-platform-app-support-for-windows-mac-linux-android-ios-and-chrome-os/

            It's just a matter of time that you get into the web store you prefer to download a web app for your browser/OS

            Life is diversity.

          • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

            You aren't getting it. There are apps exclusive for Chrome or that work differently/better with it because devs are using non-standardized specifications to publish in Chrome Web Store. NaCl and packaged apps are just the same as ActiveX, but since it's from Google and not from "the big bad Microsoft" then instead of a threat to the open web people see it as cool, trendy, innovative, etc.

            I don't want to choose an app store, the web isn't made of app stores - a walled garden and each browser with their own apps and manually installing "sites"? Do you seriously think this is how the web should work? The web is made of URLs, the web is made of web pages accessible on any browser on any device!

            Don't you understand this is "this website is best viewed with IE" all over again but worse?

  • JinRoh

    The only thing I miss is having the option to use Lastpass with Chrome... I'm stuck with Dolphin

    • Adrian Herman

      but in a way your statement is exactly the point, am i correct. in the new paradigm it is who has the most powerful but lightest footprint with their browser. those suckers will have to be big complex enough to access hardware in so many ways quickly and powerfully, like some sort of symbiotic operating system. so who's browser doesn't browser doesn't out develop to native OS- chrome is already at a point where the current will not work for most of the fractured android universe. and look at firefox OS already climbing the curve (targeted by webOS, but not achieved). the truth is that the stratified distinction between phones- dumb, feature, smart- is bound to disappear fully( because most of this functionality is already available) if a phone can access the web. question is storage space and hardware strength. heck you don't even need a major OS. just like a spider, the key to survival is the web.

    • http://ploogy.com/ Adam Brenecki

      Firefox for Android works nicely with Lastpass, I've found. Newer versions actually have decent performance, too.

  • david coffey

    Folders for our bookmarks, for fuck sake.

  • NF

    Can I get a link to the alleged docs detailing the tags I need to enable 'web app'?

    Full-screen websites would be great.

  • NF

    So all you have to do is put

    in your HTML and it allows you to create a web app.

    This sounds great. I'd love to have a fullscreen website. (Chrome's tabs UI take up a decent amount of space on my Nexus 7, so to remove them will be great. BTW, my app does videos, so the greater space I have to play around with stuff the better.)

  • yihtang

    The first thing I would think of, is to run the web version of Facebook.

    I remember the Facebook app is crap on my Nexus S, and since I got a Nexus 4 I never bothered installing it again - the web version is good enough.

  • Maxime MARAIS

    Hope these web apps will soon be able to use some API to access some device hardware components (vibrator, NFC, gyroscope...). May be very interesting in several ways : games, identification, etc.

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    What does it mean by task switch compatibility

    • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

      The sites you add to home screen open as standalone windows in the Android task switcher this is what it means.

      • dontsh00tmesanta


  • René Simonsen

    I wonder if the timing is a coincidence.. Now that iOS 7 pretty much breaks this functionality for serious apps. http://www.mobilexweb.com/blog/safari-ios7-html5-problems-apis-review