Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chrome Web Apps: They're "Glorified Bookmarks" For A Reason

Since yesterday, I've been hanging around the Chrome Web Store to install lots of web apps onto my Chrome browser. Some, which Google officially calls "packaged apps", are small programs that install into your Chrome extensions directory on your local hard drive. The others, called "hosted apps", are the on the Web. In the comments sections, I read complaint after complaint that the "web apps" are "glorified bookmarks".

Guess what? That's the entire reason they exist.

For those who haven't heard, Chrome is not just an increasingly popular web browser like Firefox or Opera. It's also the desktop for Google's upcoming netbook computer operating system, Chrome OS. The point of Chrome OS is to keep as many applications (programs) as possible off your local hard drive and on the Web. That's why Chrome packaged apps are small programs similar to extensions and "hosted apps" are bookmarks (really, desktop shortcuts) linking from your Chrome "new tab" page directly to the existing online apps.

Those people who complain so bitterly expect the "web apps" to be big programs like mobile phone apps, which are indeed installed on your local hard drive like desktop/laptop computer programs are. They're missing the point entirely. They're assuming Chrome web apps are locally installed programs that just happen to run in a web browser; and that if they aren't, they by definition they suck. That's the real meaning of "glorified bookmarks". These guys (and no doubt they're mostly younger guys) probably never heard of Chrome OS; if they have, they assume it sucks as well because you can't install hefty programs in it even if they run in Linux (on which Chrome OS is based).

Me, I have no such illusions. I actually like the idea of having shortcuts to online apps installed onto Chrome's new-tab page. In fact, it got me thinking: if most "Chrome web apps" are really just links to existing app websites, there's no reason you can't do the same thing to turn the programs already installed on your computer into "Chrome web apps". In fact, the only thing keeping people from replacing their Windows Explorer desktop with Chrome may be that the Chrome OS file browser still isn't available outside Chrome OS...

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