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Google Wants Progressive Web Apps To Replace Chrome Apps (androidpolice.com) 153

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Android Police: The Chrome Web Store originally launched in 2010, and serves a hub for installing apps, extensions, and themes packaged for Chrome. Over a year ago, Google announced that it would phase out Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018. Today, the company sent out an email to developers with additional information, as well as news about future Progressive Web App support. The existing schedule is mostly still in place -- Chrome apps on the Web Store will no longer be discoverable for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. In fact, if you visit the store right now on anything but a Chromebook, the Apps page is gone. Google originally planned to remove app support on all platforms (except Chrome OS) entirely by Q1 2018, but Google has decided to transition to Progressive Web 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."

Google Wants Progressive Web Apps To Replace Chrome Apps

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  • Jesus Christ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FunkSoulBrother ( 140893 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2017 @02:02AM (#55685967)

    Jesus Christ just compile the damn code for each plaform so I can run it locally!

    • Jesus Christ just compile the damn code for each plaform so I can run it locally!

      Why would you want anything google locally? It's not like you can use google offline anyway.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's the point. Artificially tying apps that should be able to function locally to Google's online services is stupid. It's the reason Chromebooks and web apps will never catch on.

        Nobody should have to have an active internet connection just to write documents, edit pictures, listen to music or watch movies.

        • Will never catch on

          What if they become the only option?

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            What if [web applications] become the only option?

            As long as single-board Real Computers such as Raspberry Pi continue to exist, how will things like Chrome OS become "the only option"?

        • Right now they do function locally, my chromebook does editing, cooking timer, calculator and a host of other minor things, including VNC to other machines on my LAN - all without internet. It's what makes the thing useful to me (and all those apps also work on my more-capable machines too, for a unified UE). Saying chromebooks will never catch on is kinda missing the fact that they already have for education and some other uses where sysadmining is too much hassle - it's nice they don't need it. Some pe
          • Right now they do function locally, my chromebook does editing, cooking timer, calculator and a host of other minor things, including VNC to other machines on my LAN - all without internet. It's what makes the thing useful to me (and all those apps also work on my more-capable machines too, for a unified UE). Saying chromebooks will never catch on is kinda missing the fact that they already have for education and some other uses where sysadmining is too much hassle - it's nice they don't need it. Some people immediately "break" any other type of machine, it's hard to ruin a chromebook...and easy to reset to working status.
            .

            If they remove the ability to work offline, it will seriously reduce the usefulness of these things...and I'll just put linux on mine instead.

            Just buy a Mac and you won't need a SysAdmin either.

            Only Windows and Linux require such arcane meatsack-appliances to work in a corporate environment.

        • by xeoron ( 639412 )
          Chromebooks are very popular with kids, older adults, etc for just working. You don't need a active connection to use Google Apps. Turn on Offline mode and you are all set. Or fire up Crouton, and run various Linux flavors side-by-side ChromeOS. Plus, some Chromebooks run Android Apps, which offers up so much more one can do on a Chromebook for the masses.
    • Something something sufficiently smart JIT compiler.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      just compile the damn code for each plaform

      That might work for large companies, which can afford sufficient instances of all six major platforms on which to test compiled executables as well as the recurring fees for a presence on iOS and Windows app stores. It might not work quite as well for amateurs or small companies, which cannot.

      • The element of trust around the security of the apps is worth the trade-offs. When most developers support every platform the heavy-handed ones will eventually die or wane influence (Apple). Oddly enough, the Linux desktop is being left out of the cross-platform innovation velocity.

        • If you repeatedly ran into screens like the following, would you find it still "worth the trade-offs"?

          GNU/Linux: Buy Now
          Windows desktop: Buy Now
          Android: Buy Now on Google Play Store
          Your preferred platform: Join our mailing list to be notified when the crowdfunding campaign begins

      • just compile the damn code for each plaform

        That might work for large companies, which can afford sufficient instances of all six major platforms on which to test compiled executables as well as the recurring fees for a presence on iOS and Windows app stores. It might not work quite as well for amateurs or small companies, which cannot.

        iOS hasn't really needed this since iOS 8. Either use XCode or Cydia Reflector, and you can install any Apps you want, sans App Store.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          use XCode

          For one thing, this is a Mac exclusive. For another, it requires the developer to have ported the application to iOS in the first place. Or since when has there become a way to take an Android or UWP application and recompile it for iOS with no changes?

          • use XCode

            For one thing, this is a Mac exclusive. For another, it requires the developer to have ported the application to iOS in the first place. Or since when has there become a way to take an Android or UWP application and recompile it for iOS with no changes?

            My post was rep,ting to a post that alluded to the fact that the App had already been recompiled/ported to iOS, and that the only barrier at that point was having to deal with the iOS App Store for a corporate App.

            And although XCode is necessary to develop/compile for an iOS target, Cydia's "Impactor" will allow the loading of already-compiled ".ipa" files, and has versions that run not only on macOS, but also Windows (and possibly Linux?). That neatly sidesteps your other non-argument.

    • Yawn. Web apps suck, as proven by the hundreds of attempts over the last few years to make it fun to develop web apps. Cross-platform, natively compiled mobile apps are the future. The HTML-based web is for reading and looking at pretty pictures. You can already deploy Xamarin.Forms apps to Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Tizen...and probably others. If a new platform comes along you just import the project into your solution and hit build. Screw lock-in, and screw document-hack browser-based web ap

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2017 @02:05AM (#55685973)

    And how are they different from normal web apps?

    • by Z80a ( 971949 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2017 @02:23AM (#55686023)

      They ask you for your preferred pronouns before running and have fonts adapted for reading with problem glasses.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday December 06, 2017 @03:43AM (#55686199) Homepage Journal

      They are web sites that are installable and can run like native apps.

      They are an interesting idea because they bring mobile app style sandboxing and permissions to desktop apps. Since the app it basically HTML, CSS and Javascript there are very mature sandboxes available to run them in, and in fact you have a choice of sandbox from your favourite browser vendor, opening up the possibility of extreme levels of control and in-app ad-blocking.

      There are limits to what these apps can do, so they are mostly suited to highly networked stuff like cloud services, advanced web site interfaces like the Twitter and Facebook apps on mobile, messenger clients etc.

      Microsoft are in trouble because these compete with their failed Metro apps on Windows, and make Windows itself kind of irrelevant because now the browser is the OS and the cloud is the disk. Obviously /.ers are not going to be happy with that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Aaaand can be turned off at a whim leaving you high and dry.

        At least with genuine installable apps, if the company turns its servers off because "oh we're not supporting it anymore", you aren't going to be completely f*cked.

        This is why PWA should be treated like a disease and avoided.

        Think of it like DRM, when you have bought a load of stuff, and then the company goes bump or simply stops supporting it's auth servers. All those nice things you bought suddenly no longer work and you would need to replace th

        • by zmooc ( 33175 )

          So what apps do you use that do not rely on a central server anyway because the primary goal of such apps is to do stuff together with others (chat, social network, managing data) or to offer computationally intensive features (voice recognition, route planning with many realtime variables etc.). It all requires a central server anyway.

          Nevertheless, where we can, we should avoid such centrally managed services in favor of distributed alternatives. So the problem is not progressive web apps per se, it's cent

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            So what apps do you use that do not rely on a central server anyway because the primary goal of such apps is to do stuff together with others (chat, social network, managing data) or to offer computationally intensive features (voice recognition, route planning with many realtime variables etc.). It all requires a central server anyway

            Err, no it doesn't. Half a seconds thought and I've come up with a multitude of things which do not need a central server for anything. How ever did you come up with such a stupid statement?

            So, without further ado, that'll be Excel for your accounts, Word for your CV, and any other number of *many* apps out there that do not /need/ a central server to do local work. Writing a book? Doesn't need a central server. Playing a local game? Those don't 'need' central servers and certainly worked before the

            • Playing a local game? Those don't 'need' central servers and certainly worked before the internets.

              Except nowadays, commercial video games need the Internet for matchmaking even if you're playing on the LAN.
              <cough>StarCraft II</cough>

              • Except nowadays, commercial video games need the Internet

                Technically, they don't need the internet. They just force you to connect to their server because they want that sweet, sweet data.

                This evil trend of requiring games to be online when there's no good reason for it is what pushed me out of the gaming world.

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            So what apps do you use that do not rely on a central server anyway because the primary goal of such apps is to do stuff together with others (chat, social network, managing data)

            I regularly use FamiTracker, Python, cc65, and FCEUX Debugger in my work. These are locally installed applications. We also use various collaboration platforms, but each of them can be replaced with an equivalent: forums with forums, mail servers with mail servers, IRC servers with IRC servers, and Git servers with Git servers.

        • Progressive Web Apps are not a replacement for native applications. They are exactly what they claim to be: web apps. If you design your web app by the strictures of PWAs and don't mess with actually declaring it a PWA, well then...you're just left with a nice, fast, regular web app. If your web app requires an internet connection to work (think Twitter, Yelp, etc) then how is this any more draconian than just adding a shortcut to your home screen?

          PWA's make a lot of sense when you think about the current s

      • by jbengt ( 874751 )

        Microsoft are in trouble because these compete with their failed Metro apps on Windows, and make Windows itself kind of irrelevant because now the browser is the OS and the cloud is the disk.

        So Microsoft's 1990s paranoia about Netscape's attempt to make the browser the OS is finally proving true?

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Indeed, they were only out by a couple of decades but the threat was real. Javascript was just the start of it.

      • In other words, the world is going the way of WebOS in spite of WebOS going the way of the Dodo.

        One could argue this will be a boon for Microsoft in the mobile space since it lets customers break out of the Chrome / ChromeOS / Android ecosystem.

      • "mobile app style sandboxing and permissions to desktop apps."
        Just build a mobile app.

        "There are limits to what these apps can do"
        Again, just build a mobile app.

        "Microsoft are in trouble because these compete with their failed Metro apps on Windows"
        False. They (Google) are trying to compete with mobile apps in general--weird. Cross-platform development on Xamarin Forms using open-source frameworks has completely killed this argument. Xamarin builds the same app for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android with ha

    • As I understand it, they're basically web apps that support offline use. HTML5 supports local storage and so it's possible to write apps that run in a browser but still work when the web site is down. They also adopt a bunch of ideas from Java Web Start (remember that?) where they'll quickly download the code required to get the core UI working and then download the rest on demand. If the network isn't present, then some features may not work (or may not work if you don't use them the first time when you
    • The miniquad (drone) community relies on these apps to configure the flight controller software.

      What makes them special when compared to a regular Web App is that these Chrome apps have access to the computer's USB/Serial interface so they can talk to the drone's flight controller.

      For the small dev teams of these apps, Chrome is great because they only have to write one GUI to support all major platforms. Google achieved what Java was trying to achieve as far as run anywhere - the difference is Chrome apps

    • Thanks to everyone who pointed out Google's developer pages:

      * https://developers.google.com/... [google.com] (developers.google.com/web/progressive-web-apps/)

      Their I/O 2017 talk is online:

      * Progressive Web Apps: Great Experiences Everywhere (Google I/O '17) [youtube.com]

    • How are they different?!?! They are progressive you prehistoric luddite.
    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      And how are they different from normal web apps?

      They are even slower.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just wait a week, and it will be replaced with a new one.

    • Yup, Google seem to be going the way Microsoft did once they got too much market share.

      As much as despise Apple's overpriced, locked in ecosystem debugging on it is a joy. Breakpoints work for example. On Google's more open ecosystem as someone put it 'Nothing works, everything keeps changing and no one knows why'.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So if you made a Chrome app, Google now made your work useless. And what next year? Will they phase out web apps for the new flavor of the year? Google tech doesn't stick and can be abandoned by Google at any moment. I can't build on that.

    • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2017 @03:34AM (#55686181)

      There is a 99.9% chance that your "web app" was either nothing more than a glorified bookmark that registered an icon in your start menu and did nothing more than redirecting to a regular website. If you actually used javascript running locally, local storage, or other webapp features, that was basically only thenew fancy HTML5 stuff to begin with and that won't go away either, You mostly have to do a boilerplate update.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You know I just ported a big application to Android 7.1.

      It's so flakey now, I cannot guarantee that the background service will continue to run. It gets killed every so often when the OS decides to run Bixby or similar. I have to block the reload of the gui on rotation of the device because a leak in Samsungs stylus in the text edit field makes it run out of bitmap memory (I thought Google would fix this heap by now, but no, it seems not). So I literally have to move existing controls around the screen myse

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by johanw ( 1001493 )

        Psst, did you know about the targetSdkVersion setting in build.gradle? So you can keep using the OS quirks you like?

      • Take a look at Xamarin Forms. It abstracts away a lot of those problems to someone else and lets you focus on developing an app. ...and your app works on other platfroms without much fuss.

    • No way these web apps are going to last. Just thinking about developing one makes my skin crawl.

  • Fantastic! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2017 @03:25AM (#55686163)

    I can't wait to transition to PWAs so that one day they can tell me it will stop functioning at the end of the month and all my related data will be deleted. This is much better than the garbage applications that keep working even when you are offline. Honestly, how do they expect to spy on my entire life without internet connectivity?! ;)

    • I've looked into PWAs some, but am no expert (yet). From what I see, they have very little to do with Google per se. Your web app declares a service worker. That worker retrieves some pre-cached data to "install" the app (stuff like icons, fonts, etc.). Then as you use your app you can have the service worker cache the retrieved data locally for offline use. Nowhere in that process have I seen "Thou shalt use Google's version of PWAs". It just so happens that the best documentation for PWAs comes from
      • All PWAs rely on retrieving online data and always have an internet connection. The race to the bottom is fast.

        • This statement is not fully accurate. PWAs are meant to address the issue of an application that works fine when connected, but also should continue working when the online connection disappears. By caching the retrieved data and using that, the application can continue to run fine except where new data is needed. A non-PWA approach would just give the standard 404 or service not available error when you try to access the new data. The PWA approach allows that situation to be anticipated and an appropri
    • by jon3k ( 691256 )
      I had the same position about music. I NEVER thought people would be willing to give up actually having files on a disk that they control, but streaming services have crushed mp3 downloads. So I just assume we've kind of embraced this ephemeral culture and expect we won't see hardly any resistance to progressive web apps, siloed centralized data and no true control over what is created.
  • Ah well, at least I didn't waste my time developing for a short-lifetime 'product'

    I'll make sure that I'll avoid it's replacement too. Developing anything for a platform that's going to be dead in a few years is a complete waste of effort for the most part.

  • Chrome "APPS" (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mnt ( 1796310 )

    Chrome "APPS" are just that: Not real apps. More like normal Websites.

    Chrome Apps: useless.

    AMP: useless.

    "progressive" apps: useless.

    Googles own fault for coming up with such crap.

    • by ColaMan ( 37550 )

      I have a Chrome photo editing app [polarr.co] called "Polarr" - when I run it under Chrome on linux, it spawns a new window and then looks and behaves very much like its Windows and Android variants.

      So it tells me that developers can do some pretty nice things with the technology, but the quickest way to do anything with it (read: monetize) is to just package up some web 2.0 and call it a day.

  • OK, then, now that Chrome is doing the desktop web application more seriously, where is Firefox's replacement of the defunct XULRunner that did essentially the same thing?

  • I Think progressive web apps are really good. It is really good for chrome apps. Our team in https://www.identitypi.com/ [identitypi.com] uses chrome apps a lot. especially as extensions. It is good to hear progress.
  • And isn't this something they should be able to do pretty readily?
  • I don't use Chrome apps, and I won't use "progressive web apps", either.

  • What is the difference between this and a local HTML file. I am very confused on the difference.
    • The concept is similar. The difference is that a PWA is intended to be just another web application, but can continue to function when the online connection fails. It does this by caching application elements, using queues to send data back to the server (the queues can be processed when the connection is restored), and gracefully telling the user that a connection is not possible without breaking the look/feel of the application. Yes there are some things the app can't do when disconnected, but that is
  • google does not spy on your life AND internet is free and uncensored, everywhere.

    this would free us from the need of another google "invention" that goes down the drain in one or two years.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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