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How Android L and Chrome Blur The Lines Between Web and App

Chrome in Android L

Google Chrome running on Android L (Image courtesy of  Keith Myers)

When is a website not just a website? When it’s running in Chrome on Android L, it seems.

You’d need to have been visiting relatives on an outer exoplanet to have missed news of Google releasing a developer preview of its next major release of Android, ‘L’, during last month’s Google I/O event.

Among the multitude of changes forming part of that preview is a change in the way that application activities are handled in ‘Recents’ (also know as the app/task switcher).

In a break with the past Android L no longer treats Google Chrome tabs as intrinsic to the browser activity. Instead, each individual tab is listed as a ‘card’ entry in Recents. Here, the new switcher feature – which includes big previews – blurs the lines between apps, documents and the web, focusing on the tasks we’re doing and less on what app we’re doing them in.

‘With multiple tabs open you won’t need to keep switching back to the whole browser to get at the tab you want.’

The change in handling is, Google says, designed to make life easier. With multiple tabs open you won’t need to keep switching back to the whole browser to get at the tab you want. Instead, you’ll simply tap on Recents and flick through until you find the one you need, or swipe it away to close it.

It’s one of several changes to app handling in Android L, most of which are far more expansive and encompassing that simply showing tabs as separate tasks.

It’s believed that one of the secret Chrome OS projects, Athena and Hera, will be able to extend the functionality of this further, with certain tasks being accessible/shared between Android and Chrome OS when both devices are in proximity.

Have you tried Android L preview yet? Or are you waiting for the final release in the fall? Let us know in the comments.