Google announced on Friday that it is planning to move away from the app platform on its Chrome browser on all platforms aside from Chromebooks. Starting in late 2016, only those using a Chromebook will be able to download new Chrome apps, though existing apps will still be usable and developers can still release updates.
By 2017, Chrome apps will no longer show up on the Chrome Web Store (except on Chrome OS), and by 2018 Chrome apps will stop loading on Windows, Mac, and Linux completely.
SEE: Google Chrome security tips for the paranoid at heart (Tech Pro Research)
Google is giving plenty of time for developers to migrate their apps to web interfaces, which means they'll load in a browser tab and behave just like any other web page that runs as an app—like Google Docs, Sheets, or Drive.
The two types of Chrome apps
There are two kinds of Chrome apps: Packaged and hosted. Most of the apps that are used in Chrome are hosted apps, which run in a browser window and act like a website. They can run on any computer that has the Chrome browser installed.
The second kind of apps are packaged ones. They run in a separate window and feel more like an independent app, though they are still part of Chrome. According to Google, packaged apps are only used by around 1% of Windows, Mac, and Linux users, but for Chromebook users they're a part of the regular experience.
Why it won't really matter
Before you start worrying about losing some of your favorite parts of Google Chrome—relax, unless you're part of that 1%.
SEE: How to recreate the Chrome Apps Launcher (TechRepublic)
What's really going away are packaged apps that run in separate windows. Hosted apps still need to be converted to a web app format, but the transition process is just something for developers to worry about. By 2018, you won't even notice a change, and even those that use packaged apps will probably have them made available as a web app.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Chrome apps are going away for Windows, Mac, and Linux. In their place will be web-hosted apps that run in a browser tab just like any other website.
- Only 1% of Windows, Mac, and Linux users will be affected by the change, as they're the only ones using packaged Chrome apps that run in a different fashion from a web app.
- The change will be happening over the next two years and will largely go unnoticed by the average user.
- Android apps are finally coming to Chromebooks, for real this time (TechRepublic)
- 50 must-have Google Chrome extensions (and they're all free) (ZDNet)
- Chromebooks: Tips and tricks to make offline use practical (TechRepublic)
- Google Chrome hacks: Make your browser faster, more efficient, and boost your productivity (ZDNet)
- Google's Chrome Apps Strategy Is Shifting (Fortune)
Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.