Google said Wednesday that it will begin to phase out traditional Chrome apps starting in June, and winding down slowly over two years’ time. Chrome extensions, though, will live on.
Google said Tuesday in a blog post that it would stop accepting new Chrome apps in March. Existing apps could continue to be developed through June, 2022.
The important dates start in June of this year, when Google will end support for Chrome Apps on the Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. Education and Enterprise customers on these platforms will get a little more time to get their affairs in order, until December, 2020.
Google had actually said four years ago that it would phase out Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018. The company appears to have waited longer than announced before beginning this process.
The other platform that’s affected by this, of course, is Google’s own Chrome OS and Chromebooks, for which the apps were originally developed. Chrome apps will be supported on this platform until June, 2022, with extra time for Education and Enterprise customers until December of that year.
Google will continue to invest in and support Chrome extensions. Both Chrome apps and Chrome extensions have been accessible via the Chrome Web Store. However, in researching this story, we noticed that even if you Google “Chrome apps,” the link that Google takes you to is just the extensions page.
Chrome apps and Chrome extensions are somewhat similar. In 2010, Google defined the difference between the two: A Chrome app is “something more rich and interactive than a website, but less cumbersome and monolithic than a desktop application,” like a game or photo editor. A Chrome extension is something simpler that augments the function of Google Chrome: “Extensions also provide functionality, but unlike apps, there is little or no UI component.” An example of an extension could be a currency converter, which could be accessed via a button on the Chrome taskbar.
According to Google, Chrome apps will be replaced by rich web apps, which will essentially replicate the function of a Chrome app inside of a webpage. Google has a developer-focused transition page where the company encourages developers to build Progressive Web Apps, or a combination of an extension and a web app, so that the extension can load the web app’s UI from an external page. Google apparently thinks these web-like PWAs will step in for Chromebooks by the time Chrome apps bid farewell in a few years.