Chrome Web Store and Web Apps

Many people complain that installing an app from the Chrome Web Store only adds a fancy icon to the new tab page. Most of the apps are actually bookmarks to web pages and that doesn’t seem to add any value.

Google Chrome cannot magically transform a web page into a web app, that’s what developers need to do. Unfortunately, many developers were lazy and didn’t bother creating app-like interfaces. Chrome Web Store is just the place where you can find web apps, read reviews and bookmark your favorite apps.

Nelson Minar points out that there are two kinds of web apps in the Chrome store: hosted app and packaged apps. Hosted apps are normal websites that can be loaded using any web browser. Packaged apps only live inside Chrome: they work offline and they use the extensions API to integrate with the browser. You can easily tell a packaged app from a hosted app by looking at the address bar – if there’s no URL, it’s a packaged app.

Google Books is an example of hosted app, while TweetDeck and Quick Note are examples of packaged apps. You’ll find a lot of hosted apps in the Chrome Web Store, but not all hosted apps are the same: a few apps work offline and have app-like interfaces (NYTimes is a good example of news app), some apps have app-like interfaces but don’t work offline (Google Books and Grooveshark), while other apps are regular sites (for example, Google News and Google Finance).

It’s not iPad’s Notes app, it’s Quick Note for Google Chrome

NYTimes, probably the best news app in the Chrome Web Store

According to Google, web apps are “applications you can run inside your browser with a dedicated user interface and, typically, rich user interaction. We’ve already had the concept of ‘web apps’ in the browser for a few years, as something more rich and interactive than a website, but less cumbersome and monolithic than a desktop application.”

Unfortunately, Google’s store doesn’t properly label apps, so it’s difficult to find apps that work offline, apps that have a “rich user interaction”, apps that only live inside Chrome, apps that don’t require Chrome OS. The ideal web app is not a packaged app that’s only available in Google Chrome and doesn’t have a web address, but it’s interesting to see that some of the best apps in the Chrome Web Store are packaged apps.

Nelson Minar thinks that “we’re at a transitional moment for web apps: distinctions between web sites and local applications are being blurred by HTML 5’s application caching capability and APIs like local storage. If I were building a web app now I’d build it entirely in generic HTML 5 that works in any browser but uses all the fancy new HTML 5 stuff to make it work like a locally installed application. Then make it a Chrome hosted app to take advantage of the Web Store marketing channel. I’d avoid the extension / packaged app route unless there’s some technical capability I really need that’s missing in HTML 5.”

{ inspired by a Google Buzz discussion. }

Google to Launch Chrome Web Store and Chrome OS

Google will launch Chrome Web Store, a marketplace for web apps, and Chrome OS, the first browser-centric operating system. Google has uploaded two introductory videos to the YouTube channel, but they’re not yet publicly available. Here are some snapshots from the videos:

Chrome OS Tour

Chrome Web Store: Museum of Thieves (Flash game)

Chrome Web Store: Sports Illustrated

Google has already announced the launch event a few days ago: “On December 7, we will host an event in San Francisco where we plan to share some exciting news about Chrome. The event will be webcast live on YouTube at: Mark your calendars for 10:30 a.m. PST and tune in.”

{ Thanks, Emanuele. }

Chrome Web Store and Online Games reports that Google Chrome Web Store will be launched in October and online games will be one of its main attractions. “Set to launch this October, the store aims to make a proper marketplace for browser games — one that solves a lot of the issues of games on the web today, from discovery to monetization.”

Google’s game developer advocate, Mark DeLoura, thinks that it’s difficult to find great online games, so Google Chrome Web Store tries to solve this problem by allowing users to rate games and write reviews. Chrome users will be able to install games, which adds shortcuts to the “new tab” page and grants additional permissions to the games. Not all games will be free, but Chrome users can buy games directly from the Web Store and pay using Google Checkout. Google’s platform will support free trials and subscriptions, while developers will only pay a 5% processing fee for each transaction.

Will users pay for web apps in Chrome’s store? More than half of the Android apps are free and paid Android apps are only available in 13 countries because of Google Checkout’s limitations. Android Market doesn’t make it easy to find interesting new applications and doesn’t recommend other applications based on the ones you’ve installed. Hopefully, Chrome Web Store will do a much better job than the Android Market.