An Early Look At Google Chrome Web-Apps


It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Googles Chrome browser. Which is why I followed Google’s instructions on enabling web-apps in the newest dev builds of Chrome. Here’s what I found out:

  • Making a Chrome web-app is as simple bundling a  few icons with a URL in a .js file. Which incidentally is also how you build Chrome extensions.
  • The bundling of icons with the .crx web-app bundle solves the problem of small 16×16 favicons doubling as launch icons. This is clearly more elegant than the stylized 8-bit converted favicon approach Mozilla experimented with for Prism back in the day.
  • One immediate benefit of using Chrome web-apps is that once you’ve clicked “Install” on a web-app, you’ve automatically given it all the permissions it needs, such as access to notifications, geolocation and local storage.
  • Installed web-apps show up on your new tab page. As seen above.
  • When you open a web-app, it shows up as something other than a pinned tab. The design argument is for it to look distinct from your tabs, which you’re likely to have a lot of.
  • When you click a web-app tab, the entire addressbar including navigation buttons and even the extension shelf, are hidden, maximizing the available real-estate.

For those worrying about Chrome web-apps not being “open”, it’s worth noting that as of this version of Chrome, all a web-app consists of is a URL. Just look at this code sample:

  "name": "Gmail",
  "version": "3",
  "icons": { "24": "24.png", "128": "128.png" },
  "launch": {
    "web_url": ""
  "permissions": ["notifications"],
  "web_content": {
    "enabled": true,
    "origin": ""

This is still a very early look at Chrome web-apps, but I can see it working, if nothing else then for the fact that it’s so easy to create a Chrome web-app. So yeah, it may just be a super-bookmark, but it’s so convenient. Imagine a Twitter for Chrome web-app. You click “Install”, and it’s there on your browsers new tab page, synced to your Google account, and it’s got geolocation and notification permissions without any extra clicks.

3 thoughts on “An Early Look At Google Chrome Web-Apps”

  1. Pilad says:

    Hi. I’m using Ubuntu lucid. In my Chrome dev browser, tabs are shown as pinned tabs and not as web apps. As explained here chrome tabs are special to user not to browsers… but, what does it mean? Is there a way to became a user? I would really like to have real web apps tabs, and not only pinned tabs.

    1. Joen says:

      Is there a way to became a user? I would really like to have real web apps tabs, and not only pinned tabs.

      It’s too early. That’s why you don’t have any “web-apps”. It requires a lot of tinkering and messing with files to get to work, and even then it’s only a preview. So unless you’re really a hacker, you can’t get web-apps to work yet.

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