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Google Drops Axe on Legacy Packaged Apps for Chrome

Desktop tool 'Pixsta' is an example of the new Chrome Apps

Desktop tool ‘Pixsta’ is an example of the new Chrome Apps

Google has announced that ‘legacy packaged apps’ will no longer be published on the Chrome Web Store as of this week.

Furthermore, all existing legacy apps will be hidden from search by the end of the year, and will stop working entirely by June 2015. The move, insofar as we’re aware, does not affect traditional ‘hosted apps’ of which Google itself has many.

The move is one of several policy changes to be announced for the Chrome Web Store this year. Google previously detailed a tweak in the criteria for browser extensions, which some have seen as part of an effort to combat a rise in bloated, buggy and spammy add-ons.

Packaged Apps vs Chrome Apps vs Hosted Apps

Hosted apps — ‘glorified bookmarks’ that open a regular website via a launcher icon to the App menu — are not affected by this change, nor are traditional browser extensions, which typically extend the functionality of the browser rather than present a standalone user interface.

Legacy Packaged Apps provide all of their content (HTML, CSS, etc.) in an archive downloaded from the store at the time of installation. These apps can work offline and access some extra APIs. Google describes these packaged apps as “extensions that have the additional ability to present an app-like interface.”  These are affected.

Chrome Apps are, in many ways, best though of as ‘Packaged Apps Deluxe‘. These are also distributed as bundles, work offline and run as a ‘standalone’ window outside of Chrome.

But, unlike the legacy ilk, Chrome Apps have access to newer and more secure Chrome-specific APIs, such as system notifications and file manager functionality. They can leverage system hardware like graphics cards, USB devices, Bluetooth and webcams to offer improved features and deliver native speeds.

What Next?

Google say that developers can continue to update their legacy packaged apps until June 2015, but that they won’t be visible in Web Store search results from later this year.

A migration guide has been posted on the Chrome Developer website with more information for those looking to upgrade their legacy packaged apps to a Chrome App or convert it to an extension.

  • JPB

    This article is terribly confusing. So, exactly what IS affected? You listed what isn’t. WTF constitutes a “legacy app”?

    • Kenny Strawn

      A packaged app that opens in a tab and not in its own window… In other words, things like what SourceKit and Desmos Graphing Calculator used to be.

    • Tl;dr:

      Not affected: glorified bookmarks, browser extensions.

      Affected: Legacy Packaged Apps (aka apps that can run offline, don’t open a website but often run in a tab. These are increasingly rare to find, and now need to be upgraded to ‘Chrome Apps’.

      • Haashir Mohammed

        can you give me an example for legacy app

        • I believe Secure Shell by Google is one, although ithe use of NaCl may mean I’m wrong.

          • Kenny Strawn

            It appears to have been updated to a Manifest V2 packaged app (one that actually opens in a window, i.e. a real “Chrome App”) from my end…

          • Boothy

            So wouldn’t things like Google Docs be included?
            They work offline etc?

          • Kenny Strawn

            Google Docs/Sheets/Slides are hosted apps, not packaged ones, which have to use HTML5 Application Cache to run offline.

            If you launch an app and see a “chrome-extension://[some ID]” URL (and not an actual web page) open in a tab (and not take advantage of, THAT is when you know it’s a legacy packed app…

          • Boothy

            Right, thanks dude :)
            First logical explanation of a legacy packaged app I’ve seen anywhere.

        • Kenny Strawn

          It’s been updated to a new Manifest V2 packaged app since then, but Chrome Remote Desktop was definitely a legacy app when it was first released…

  • Mikey B

    OMG crap article

    • Heimen Stoffels

      OMG crap comment.