We recently told you that the developers of Google’s Chrome web browser have released version 7 of Chrome. In order to use it, you have to be running the dev channel version of Chrome or the new Canary build of Chrome. One of the interesting new features in Chrome 7, is support for Chrome web apps, which will be available in the Chrome Web Store in October.
The question I’m raising today is What are these Chrome web apps?. An answer at Wikipedia was useful, but as I expected, it’s full of techno-jargon that immediately makes me skip through most of the article. I’ll save you the trouble of trying to sift through the jargon. In most cases, a web app isn’t any different than many existing pages on the internet. Any time you visit Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Google Docs, or even Youtube, you are using a web app. A web app is a web page that performs a specific job or set of jobs using your web browser. Usually web apps require that you download files and data that they need to function. Chrome extensions also have the same requirement and they offer you the ability to change the way pages look or add tools and services to existing pages.
So what’s the big deal? Why are they even called web apps instead of extensions? My best guess is that they are doing this to make it easier to market (sell) these downloads. However, even though web apps aren’t much different from Chrome extensions, there are a couple of differences.
One big difference is that you’ll only find most of them in the Chrome Web Store. Some of those web apps will be free, but most of them will likely cost you a few dollars. Google will make money on them and so will the people who create them.
Another difference is that the tab for a running web app looks different from a normal tab. Here’s a screen shot to show that. The tab on far left is a Gmail web app. It’s a single icon with no text. Next to it is a normal tab showing Gmail.
You’ll also be able to see all of your installed web apps on the Chrome New tabpage.
I love the fact that only the icon is showing on web app tabs. That’s great for those of us who have lots of tabs open in the browser. Other than that, what is there to like about web apps rather than extensions? At this point, I don’t think that there’s much to like unless you like paying out money. It’s a great deal for Google and the web app developers. It’s not a great deal for the average surfer.
If you’d like to play around with Chrome’s new web apps, DownloadSquad has a page telling you how to install web apps. I’m not going to be using them much unless they are free.
If you have tips or opinions about Chrome web apps, be sure to comment below or email me.