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Chrome apps may soon run without relying on the Chrome browser

Thanks to a new project called app_shell, Chrome apps may eventually be able to run independent of the Chrome browser and even the entire Chrome process.
By
February 6, 2014
Google-IO-2013 Chrome logo 6 1600 aa

Last week Google officially brought Chrome apps to Android and iOS, thanks to the release of a beta version of their new Apache Cordova-based toolkit. This tool essentially ‘converts’ these Chrome web apps into what look and act like native apps.

This alone was a pretty ambitious project, but it seems Google’s plans for Chrome apps don’t end there. According to the Next Web, Google looks to be preparing a minimal environment that will let Chrome packaged apps run without needing the whole Chrome process.

App_shell could lead to a platform-agnostic approach that would allow app developers to write the code once and then easily create apps that work on a variety of OSes.

Although Google has yet to comment on its plans, evidence of this effort comes from a readme for an experimental project called app_shell. The goal of app_shell is reportedly to allow apps to run most Chrome extension APIs without running the rest of Chrome.

What this potentially means is that Google could create web apps that are lightweight and browser-independent. These apps would also have access to all the Chrome APIs that allow functionality beyond a typical web app.

At least in theory, that means app_shell could lead to a platform-agnostic approach that would allow app developers to write the code once and then easily create apps that work on a variety of OSes including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Chrome OS. While this is already possible to a point, the big difference is that these apps would be free of Chrome and the full Chrome process, making them much more convenient and practical.

Of course, it’s important to note that if Google succeeds at creating Chrome and OS independent web apps, they’re still going to have disadvantages over native apps. The biggest disadvantage is that they probably won’t perform nearly as efficiently, though the drop in performance may be worth it for some app developers.

Bottom-line, Google sees a real future in Chrome apps, with or without Chrome attached to it.