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Google Kills Chrome Apps: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Extensions are not affected — phew!

chrome apps

From packaged apps came promise

Google has announced it is to discontinue support for Chrome web apps starting this year. 

Windows, macOS and Linux users will lose support for finding, installing and opening web apps installed from the Chrome Web Store over the next two years.

Google Chrome OS, the operating system used on Chromebooks, is not affected.

Google say web apps will ‘remain supported and maintained on Chrome OS for the foreseeable future.’

Chrome Apps Are Being Phased Out

‘It’s important to stress that Chrome extensions are not affected’

Google gives a rough timeline for the changes in their blog post:

In late 2016: New Chrome apps will only be shown to Chrome OS users. Chrome users on Windows, macOS and Linux can only install apps added to the Chrome Web Store before this date.

In mid 2017: Windows, macOS or Linux users will no longer be able to install any new apps. Apps that are already installed will continue to work. Chrome OS users will notice no change.

In early 2018 Chrome users on Windows, macOS or Linux will no longer be able to open apps they already have installed or install new ones. Chrome OS users will notice no change.

Confused? No worries. We’re here to walk you through what’s happening, why it’s happening, and when you’ll start to notice it happening.

Everything You Need To Know

packaged apps

What Is Google Doing?

Google plans to phase out support for web apps on desktop Chrome for Windows, macOS and Linux.

Why Is Google Doing It?

There are two reasons:

One, Google say that the regular web can now do the things that Chrome apps were built to do.

The gaps these apps helped to fill are, the search giant reasons, no longer there. Leading the “evolution away from the Chrome apps platform” are new cross-platform features like Web Push API, service workers, web-app manifests, progressive web-apps, and more.

Two, Google say not enough people use them. In fact to quote them just “1% of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps”.

Why expend so much effort into supporting something, bloating the rest of the browser in the process, if only a few people make use if it?

Remind Me Again: What Is a Chrome App?

Background: Chrome App; Foreground: Web App

Background: Chrome App; Foreground: Web App

Chrome Apps (also known as ‘packaged apps’ ) are Google’s turbo-charged brand of web-apps. They are able to run offline, in their own window, and integrate with the native underlying operating system and hardware.

Packaged apps were first announced back in 2013.

Some examples of Chrome Apps: Google Keep, Wunderlist, Hangouts, Polarr.

Hosted Apps (also known as ‘web apps’) are like big, fancy bookmarks to websites. They open up a remote website or service in New Tab when clicked (unless you’ve chosen to open it in a window).

Hosted Apps have been around since the launch of the Chrome Web Store in 2010. 

Some examples of hosted apps: Gmail, Google Docs, Tweetdeck, OMG! Chrome!.

Does This Affect Chrome Extensions?

No.

It’s important to stress that Chrome extensions are not being discontinued. You can continue to find, install and use extensions.

The change effectively sees Chrome return to its roots: a web browser with add-ons. No extra bells or whistles, no ‘platform by the backdoor’, no feature creep, and no bloat.

Chrome was initially backed by an ‘extensions gallery’ in 2009, with web-app support arriving in late 2010.

Will This Affect Chromebooks?

No.

Google says it will continue to support Chrome Apps (and regular web apps) on Chrome OS for the ‘foreseeable future’.

Does this mean the apps you currently use will still work on a Chromebook in 2018? That is less certain.

Developers may, over the next few years, remove their apps from the store rather than maintain, update and improve an app that only a small audience can use.

When Will Chrome Apps Stop Working?

Sometime in early 2018, if you’re using Windows, macOS or Linux then your installed web apps will stop working.

Web apps will continue to run on Chrome OS after this date.

When Will I No Longer Be Able To Install Chrome Apps?

From late 2016 the Chrome Web Store will only show newly published apps to Chrome OS users.

If you’re on Windows, macOS or Linux you will only be able to install apps that were added before this date. From the second half of 2017 you’ll only be able to open apps that you have already installed.

This *Was* Expected

Despite some well known apps using Chrome App technology to target desktop users across platforms, the momentum behind the technology never quite peaked.

Among well-known apps set to be affected by this move is Google Play MoviesWunderlist, Todoist, and Any.do, while once-pioneering Chrome Apps like IRC-client Circ and Polarr will now have to refocus their expertise elsewhere online.

Alas, we figured the writing was on the wall for Chrome Apps when Google (very quietly) discontinued support for its native Chrome dev editor app. When a tool designed to make Chrome Apps gets the chop you know something is up.

There’s also no getting away from the fact that Chrome Apps, despite plans, never fully materialised on Android. And with the uptake of Service Workers, web-app manifests and so on, the exact point of Chrome Apps was diminished.

It’s hard to argue with the reasoning Google gives for nixing these nifty apps. The web is increasingly the platform of choice for powerful cross-OS experiences. It’s unlikely any of the services you use and love right now won’t be available in some shape or form in the future.

Are you upset by this news? Or do you think it makes sense to simplify Chrome?

  • crusaderad

    “Windows, macOS and Linux users will lost support for”

  • crusaderad

    I agree with the move, though. No one uses them, it was just time to tidy up.

  • them removing apps should be a good thing it would speed chrome up a bit

  • I wonder what will this mean for Hangouts (which I am forced to use) and Signal Desktop (which is only a Chrome app or was when I last checked).

    The Hangouts Chrome app is the only reasonable HO client, the web hangouts is confusing as it opens multiple blinking chats to same window at the same time and GMail/Inbox/whatever has emails/whatever confusing the user in addition to the web HO issues.

    • Eldaria

      Hmm, here I was thinking that I was not using any Web apps, but did not think about Hangouts. I use that all the time.

    • CCpad

      hangout extension will still work

      • Thanks, I wasn’t aware that it was both app and extension.

        However I tried them both and the difference seems to be that the web app is single window where you have hangouts on the left and messages in selected hangout in the right.

        The extension again is random window floating whereever you put it and when you receive a new message from hangout you don’t have open, it appears to random place of your screen. This is on Arch Linux.

        I noticed quickly on Windows 10 that everything with the extension appears cleanly to bottom right, but it’s still more uncomfortable than the web app and Windows is not my primary OS.

        I guess I will just have to try talking people harder from Hangouts to Telegram unless Hangouts fixes this situation or the extension on Linux and it’s also missing other important features such as opening on the last read message and showing where unread messages start and replies which you have even on WhatsApp nowadays.

  • [RYOUGI]

    I’m the one who was regularly use the web app with the chrome launcher. Especially Windows 8 era when the start button is missing. And I continue to use it until recent month google announce that the launcher (yes. just the launcher) will gone. Since I was very used to it, I try not using it and get used to the google app pages. But this one extra click on a little button after launching the browser never satisfy me. So I try all other browser and alternative way to access my app. Now I’m using Opera as it’s still chromium but lighter. My commonly used web app are pinned as a bookmark on start page and customized beautifully. I could even have the same extension from chrome web store.

    I think it couldn’t be only me who stop using chrome web app for the same reason. So the active user might have been drop to some level so they make decision to stop supporting it.

  • Ben Leahy

    So, does this effect Hosted Apps as well? That’s my main concern. I’ve already switched to Firefox following this news. But if Hosted Apps will continue to be supported, perhaps I acted too hastily?

    • CCpad

      hostes app is just bookmark to website.. so u left because they removed it?
      and firefox has hosted apps?? what a lame troll

    • Ryan Johnson

      Have you even read the article? It says no

  • I’m guess that eventually ChromeOS will lose support for them once Android apps have more general support in ChromeOS.

    • ChrisGX

      Yes, but some space will remain for Chrome apps even after the rationalisation of the Google application universe is completed. Chrome Apps, as the article indicates, are a rather unique variation on the web app theme. The term “Web app” is, admittedly, pretty slippery so producing a list of bona fide web apps is not so straightforward. I would say PC Mag’s definition, in their Web “Encyclopedia” (glossary of technical terms) is about right: “an application in which all or some parts of the software are downloaded from the Web each time it is run.” PC Mag further elaborates that Web app, “may refer to browser-based apps that run within the user’s Web browser, or to ‘rich client’ desktop apps that do not use a browser or to mobile apps that access the Web for additional information.”

      Android apps do not fully cover these use cases and are not completely consonant in technical terms with the heavily Javascript influenced dynamically composable application paradigm that Web apps are founded on. You are right, of course, that Android apps are destined to become the primary type of software application on the Chrome OS desktop with the curtailment of Chrome apps/Web apps that is currently underway. Android apps, will, in many cases, ably provide the services that were formerly being provided by Chrome apps, but not always. The need for web apps will continue because the use cases mentioned above necessitate something of that sort. But Google, as is already apparent, will be giving up its point of difference from everyone else in this regards. Although it has its virtues in technical terms, Google hasn’t got anywhere with pNaCl. In line with the other major browser suppliers Google will be moving to WebAssembly that builds on the Javascript paradigm common to web developers but offers the prospect of higher performing and more secure web apps.

  • Russel Brooks

    I am worried by this change. I use a chromebook for 98% of my computing needs. While chrome os isn’t supposed to be affected I wonder if app developers will remain interested when chrome os is the only platform left. There are a few apps that I consider critical to my chromebook use (like Lastpass) and my chromebook would be much less useful, and less secure too, should they abandon these tools. I understand Google’s reasoning for this move but I wonder if they have poisoned this platform’s future? I love Google and its innovation but that is tempered by the constant fear they are going to shut down another process that I’ve fully committed myself too. (Remember Reader?) I’ve even partly backed off my use of Google Voice because shutdown *rumors* (a year to two back) had me worrying how deeply I was relying on it. I felt I at least needed to be prepared for sudden changes and that means not becoming very dependent on it. Now this new news worries me that my wonderful chromebook may become less useful too. :-(

    • pixelstuff

      I think Google poisoned the Chrome App platform’s future in full awareness because they want everything to move to the web platform. In the long term that is probably a good idea, as a web app will run on more browsers. The question is whether Google can develop and then push everyone to adopt the necessary web APIs to do everything that a Chrome App can do.

      It makes me a little bit sad because in the back of my mind I always had hope that one day Chromebooks would have offline apps with features like Photoshop, Netscan, VLC Player, Sound Forge, etc. Seems like this dream will be just a little bit harder to achieve now with a push toward web apps.

      • TonyL

        As Dan says below – Google is moving to android apps for Chrome OS. Part of the plan to merge the two OSes over time perhaps?

      • ChrisGX

        I think you are right, the Chrome App platform in its present form is winding down. Google has been putting a broom through its diverse development projects lately, with software development projects that have missed the mark giving way to other projects with a better chance of success. ARC, for example, as a strategy to bring Android apps to Chrome OS is out and Linux containers has instead slotted in to that role (thank goodness). But Chrome App development, insofar as it involves employment of native code, hasn’t proved to be a viable strategy either. The whole NaCl/pNaCl development effort has misfired: i) no browser supplier other than Google has implemented the pNaCl plug-in in the browser halting pNaCl’s progress as a potential standard and ii) Chrome Apps have gained little support amongst people using the Chrome browser on systems other than Chrome OS. Taken together those two points mean that Chrome Apps have failed (everywhere except on Chrome OS) and the pNaCl plug-in, too. So, any new web app strategy inevitably involves bringing in a more viable alternative to pNaCl that can attract the support of all browser suppliers. The impact of this change is naturally being witnessed on platforms other than Chrome OS, where Chrome Apps still serve a purpose, first, but the impact will eventually flow on to Chrome OS too – the pNaCl platform will have to give way to whatever achieves broad acceptance amongst popular browser suppliers.

        Actually, the question of what comes next, in large part, seems to be already decided – WebAssembly seems set to supersede pNaCl for web app development. The article “7 Things You Should Know About WebAssembly” (despite some errors) gives a good account of all this. What is useful from pNaCl will make its way into WebAssembly as plumbing supporting the WebAssembly environment and APIs. All major industry players and W3C are already working on WebAssembly as the future standard for native web app development.

  • Cw Tham

    I guess Chrome Remote Desktop might get sent to the slaughterhouse as well?

    • Degru

      Chrome Remote Desktop has been awfully buggy for me lately in Windows 10. I remote in, and some windows refuse to show their contents or to update them after the first paint, the start menu is all messed up and I can’t click anything in it, and a slew of other issues. I’m not really sure what they’re planning to do with it, but at the moment they’ve all but abandoned it entirely.

      • Cw Tham

        CRD works surprisingly well for me. The only gripe I have with it is the lacked of elevated access control.

        • Degru

          Are you using it on Windows 7? Haven’t had any trouble with it there myself.

          • Cw Tham

            If you are connected to a host via Remote Assistance code where user is not administrator, when trying to run an installation that requires admin privilege/elevated access, the remote session just hanged. As the host PC would show dialog to continue with elevated access, which is not shown from controlling side.

            Otherwise, CRD would be my best option for remote support. I think this affects Win7 and onward. Since XP doesn’t really have elevated access request feature.

  • Kylie

    Which means no more tweetdeck, no more kindle reader, or anything else. no more videostream.

    …so why am I using chrome again?

    • jTc42

      Because other browsers don’t support apps either, so switching because of apps wouldn’t make sense and Chrome still has a lot of features going for it?

    • Both TweetDeck and Kindle Reader are “bookmark” apps, this only affects “Packaged” apps. That would include VideoStream though.

  • Rob

    Does this mean that we will also lose access to Google Docs offline (unless using a Chromebook)? That will be a major annoyance. I don’t want to go back to using Word and Excel!

    • TonyL

      No – If you check your extensions, you will see that Docs, Sheets etc are there. They are not apps, they are extensions and so are unaffected.

      • I think apps appear mixed with extensions in the extensions tab and I see both Hangouts there, so I am not sure on the future of Docs, Sheets, etc.

    • Docs offline is an extension

      • Rob

        OK, good. Thanks!

  • * Google discontinues Chrome apps on the desktop.
    * Android apps come to Chrome OS
    * A “Freeform Windows” mode for Android is in development
    * Android itself is getting gets a similar update mechanism to Chrome OS

    It’s becoming harder and harder to not paint a picture of these two operating systems merging.

  • Tinovaziva

    Never cared for them.

  • Joshua

    Nooo… First the app launcher then this… I have an idea, why dont google make 2 version of chrome, one will be the normal one(browser with extension) and full version with all the apps and everyting… I use chrome apps everytime i use my pc

    • That would be lots of maintenance. By doing that they would probably release less features over a longer time instead of the current every 6 weeks cycle.

  • oneleft1

    I use Keep daily on Mac and Chromebook. Now I’ll have to use the web version on the Mac?

    • arn

      You are already using a web version, because the chrome app is essentially a web-app.
      The new Keep “web version” is no longer a chrome app, but a regularly web-app, which works pretty much the same way.

      On Windows, Linux and a Chromebook, you just open the new Keep website in Chrome.
      Then go to Chrome menu -> “More Tools” -> Click on “Add to desktop” (or “Add to shelf” on Chromebook). Then check the box: “Open as window”.

      On Windows and Linux you then drag this new shortcut to the taskbar. Now you have almost the same Keep app as before.

      Somehow this does not work on a Mac. I don’t know why.

    • arn

      You are already using a web version, because the chrome app is essentially a web-app.
      The new Keep “web version” is no longer a chrome app, but a regularly web-app, which works pretty much the same way.

      On Windows, Linux and a Chromebook, you just open the new Keep website in Chrome.
      Then go to Chrome menu -> “More Tools” -> Click on “Add to desktop” (or “Add to shelf” on Chromebook). Then check the box: “Open as window”.

      On Windows and Linux you then drag this new shortcut to the taskbar. Now you have almost the same Keep app as before.

      Somehow this does not work on a Mac. I don’t know why, but try search for “applicationize” on google. Its seems to be a solution on Mac?

      • Except the Keep Chrome app also has offline support.

        • arn

          They have until 2018 to make their excellent web-app work offline as well. It’s shouldn’t be a problem.

          As I see it, Chrome-apps are obsolete. Regularly web-apps can do the same stuff today. But I will miss the Chrome Webshop, if they kill that off to.

      • oneleft1

        I also use it on iOS so it’s an app there. Bottom line is that if Google is repeatedly going to introduce something only to take it away a short time later what is the point in using anything they put out? Heck, Keep isn’t even that old.
        Before I’ll go jumping through hoops to get something to work that they broke I’ll go back to Evernote.

        • arn

          Keep Chrome app is not broken yet. It’s still runs until 2018.

          Until then Google have plenty of time to make the Keep web-app work offline, and Introduce “Add to dock” from Chrome on a Mac. And maybe someone will even make a Electron app for Mac, like with Google music?

          I also do not like when Google kills apps and services, that are very useful. Like Google Reader, which I used a lot. But I don’t think that Keep will disappear, because they made great apps for iOS and Android, and the new web-app as well.

          But with Chrome-apps I think they are doing the right thing by killing them off, because regularly web-apps can do the same stuff today, and there is really no need for Chrome-apps anymore.

          Chrome-apps was essentially just normal web-apps packed in a specific way to work better. But today there is no use for them.

          I think the Chrome Webshop is a great tool for finding useful web-apps though, and I hope not that they kill that off to.

  • Waethorn

    Big question: does this include Chrome Remote Desktop?

    I sure hope not!

    • It does. Unless they make an alternative, that will be gone along with Play Music uploading, Offline Play Movies and Google Keep, and many more non-Google stuff like Authy for 2FA.

      • Degru

        I’m sure those can be done without the apps. Google Photos’ uploader does perfectly fine without a Chrome app, including duplicate detection, so that you don’t needlessly upload duplicate photos, so that takes care of Play Music uploading. Keep can already be used offline without an extension (at least on Android, it can; I can pin the Keep website to my launcher and use it offline without the Android app; I’m sure this can be implemented on desktop if it isn’t already), and Play Movies offline can probably be implemented in some way as well, although I have no experience with Play Movies.

  • I think this is Google’s way of saying that GitHub’s Electron has taken over.

    • Jop

      The problem is that Electron sucks…

  • Rob

    Judging by the comments here, there’s obviously a lot of confusion on the part of users (including myself) about what is and what is not a packaged app. I hope that Google could give us some way to identify packaged apps – perhaps through a label in the web store or on the chrome://extensions page, so that we will know which features we’re going to lose access to in 2018.

  • james___b

    I always thought packaged apps were intriguing and had huge potential. One development platform for multiple operating systems, running off a browser that millions of people already use. That’s a pretty great concept. Too bad it didn’t take off.

    • arn

      GitHub’s Electron is promising and does exactly that.

      And today you can do almost the same stuff with a regularly Web-app, what a packaged chrome-app would offer. There is really no need for Chome-apps anymore. Just use Chrome’s “Add to desktop / Add to shelf” function, and check the box: “Open as window”.

      I just hope that Chrome Webshop stays around, and get cleaned up a bit. We really need a great Web-app catalogue / store.

      • [M]

        This is not really true.

        Webapps (webpages) are more limited than Chrome apps in the sense of what they are allowed to do.

        Also while GitHub’s Electron is a nice idea it lacks security. While a chrome app runs in a sandboxed environment and it can only access to things specified in it’s manifest you still have to download and install a plain old exe file when you are installing an Electron app. That exe may or may not contain malicious code and there is simply no limitation of what it can do on your computer. You can be sure that a chrome app won’t listen on your microphone because either you didn’t allow it or it simply didn’t ask for that permission. A plain old exe file can do whatever it wants without you even realizing it.

        • arn

          You are right. But Web-apps are getting closer, and will make Chrome-apps obsolete over time.

          When Microsoft released Edge, a new and exciting era began. Edge is a modern browser, and will make IE obsolete in a few years.

          Edge also gets continuous updates, like Chrome and Firefox, and will therefore speed up the evolution of the Internet, together with the other modern browsers.

          When the stop block, Internet Explorer, is gone for good, the evolution will really take off.

  • Jane Miller

    Well nuts. I deal with a lot of seniors and other tech-challenged people. I’ve just finished weening them off of the App Launcher by making the Apps page their home page. Lately, I’ve been moving people off of Chrome altogether in favor of Opera. Add your favorite stuff to the Speed Dial, make that your home page then turn on the built in ad blocker. It’s sweet! Even Chrome extensions will work with a little tweaking. Now I need Opera for my husband’s Chromebox……

  • Stéphane Gauvin

    Hum ! Not sure that’s a good news!!! That’s one of major reason I had switched from Windows or Linux OS to Chrome OS ! Because when I need my “Chrome Apps” I have it from ANY COMPUTERS!!! No mater what is the OS !!! :-/ So we will lost the best heterogeneous system OS in the world! It is really true or rumor?………..

    • arn

      “The web” is the heterogeneous system OS in the world! Google knows this. Chrome OS was designed for the web. Not “Chrome Apps”.

      “Chrome Apps” were just a necessary, before “The web” was ready to do it all natively. Regularly Web-app are not all there yet, when it comes to Chrome App features, but it will come sooner than later.

      And how many “Chrome Apps” do you really use? Most of Google’s own services are regularly Web-app’s anyway. Of course there are some important Chrome Apps, but they can be converted to normal Web-app’s before 2018.

  • Not good news for me. I use a number of Chrome Apps on Linux. Disappointing. No longer will I be able to use the same apps on Chrome OS and Linux or Windows. :-/

    • dwightstegall

      Most of the Apps have equivalents on the web. You shouldn’t have too much finding them.

  • dwightstegall

    I think It’s a great idea. What worries me is will we still be able to pin tabs to the desktop and taskbar? They use the Chrome Apps page. I use that a lot. :(

  • Sara .

    So… if I’m reading this correctly, this is just affecting packaged apps, but not touching any of the web apps?

  • Denis

    So, time for decent offline gmail capabilities…

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  • Geoffrey Stentiford

    Well, I’m screwed. A large part of my workflow is done on Chrome packaged apps. Currently installing Chromium alongside Chrome and disabling CHromium’s updates via apt….

  • micaela.barnes

    Start Earning $90 a day for working online from your home for few h on a daily base… Get regularly paid once a week… Everything you need is a personal computer, connection to the web, and a little free-time… KORTA.NU/NDe

  • Sebastian Kutter

    It seems like they didn’t think about Chrome Apps with offline capabilities.
    And there are some really good apps that will have to switch to Electron or something like that. But if the app developers switch to Electron, I highly doubt they’ll keep the Chrome app alive so it won’t be available on Chrome OS then. So in my opinion, Google is destroying the app ecosystem on Chrome OS with that. Too bad

    • karen_jackson_95@mail.ru

      It’s been one yr since I decided to resign from my old work and I never felt better in my life… I started freelancing at home, over a site I discovered on-line, for several hrs a day, and I make much more than i did on my old job… My check for last month was for $9000… The best thing about this job is that now i have more free time with my family… CHILP.IT/728813e

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    1 year have passed since I decided to quit my last job and it changed my life… I started doing a job from my house, over a site I discovered online, few hours daily, and I earn much more than i did on my previous work… My last month check was for $9000… Superb thing about this is the more time i got for my kids… KORTA.NU/MDe

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    After 5 yrs I abandoned my last job and it changed my life… I started doing work from home, for this company I discovered over internet, few hours daily, and I profit now much more than i did on my office work… Last payment i got was for 9k dollars… Awesome thing about this is that i have more free time to spend with my family… CHILP.IT/8d93f4b

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    It’s been 1 yr since I finally left my last work and I am so happy now… I started freelancing over internet, for this company I found over internet, few hrs /a day, and I earn much more than i did on my office work… Last pay-check i got was for Nine thousand bucks… The best thing about this gig is that now i have more time for my family… CHILP.IT/13548ef

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    It’s been one year since I finally left my last job and I never felt this good… I started to work from home, for a company I discovered over internet, for several hours a day, and I profit now much more than i did on my office job… My last month payment was for 9000 bucks… Great thing about it is that now i have more free time to spend with my family… TINY.PL/g9s36

  • Roy Conn

    I’m going to start a petition asking Google to keep support for chrome apps on all desktop versions of Chrome. If anyone is interested in signing this petition, email me at rmichael1001@outlook.com. I will by then have found a website to start the petition on.