Google Chrome has been undergoing a massive amount of changes recently. From massive optimizations, to the Android New Tab page showing Google Now cards, to Progressive Web Apps blurring the line between native and web apps.
But in another change, although not entirely shocking, Google will be phasing out Chrome apps on the Chrome Web Store. If you've never used the Chrome Web Store, most of the items listed are branded as applications, but are in fact simply links to websites or web applications.
These are called 'hosted apps', which are allowed in the Chrome Web Store alongside 'packaged apps.' Packaged apps are based on web apps, but are hosted locally and have more control over their windows and the host computer. Google claims in their recent blog post that "approximately 1% of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps."
So while it is no surprise to me that Google is doing away with packaged apps, hosted apps (the ones that are simply bookmarks to online web apps) are also being killed off. It's important to note that packaged apps and hosted apps will only be removed from Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux; Chrome OS will continue to support them.
So, when exactly is all this happening? Google provided a rough timeline in their blog post:
- Late 2016: New Chrome apps will only be available on Chrome OS, only existing apps will be available for Mac/Windows/Linux
- Second half of 2017: Chrome Web Store won't show apps on Windows/Mac/Linux
- Early 2018: Chrome on Windows/Mac/Linux will no longer be able to load Chrome apps
It is also important to remember that extensions and themes will not be affected by any of this. Google recommends developers switch to Electron or NW.js, both of which are designed to wrap web applications into native applications.
Google's vision for Chrome applications is moving away from proprietary Chrome APIs, and towards Progressive Web Apps that work on all modern browsers. This is arguably a good move for both developers and users, although only time will tell.
- Chromium Blog