Weekly Poll: Should Web Apps Only Run in a Browser Tab?

Google’s new packaged Chrome web apps are radically different from what we’ve been calling “web apps” all along, since they run 100% offline and their online parts feel no more “online” than a native app that syncs. For all intents and purposes, they’re “real” apps. We’ve been making fake “real” apps from web apps with tools like Fluid for OS X for years, letting web apps run in their own separate windows outside the real browser, but in the back of your head you always know that it’s little more than a trick. Let your internet connection go out, and boom — most web apps will loose your data at best, and totally fail to keep working at worst.

And yet, Chrome’s packaged web apps break the mold. They’re actual apps made from web code (HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and such), but they live on your machine and don’t expect you to always be online. Some of them, such as Caret, are honest-to-goodness offline apps that don’t have any online component at all. They’re just apps. It’s flipped the world around.

So, let’s say there’s two types of web apps: the normal kind you can visit in any browser, and the ones you have to install like Chrome packaged apps. The latter make perfect sense to run in their own window and launch from the Start Menu or Launchpad — they’re real native apps, really. But how about web apps that require you to be online anyhow, ones you can run from any browser just by visiting their site. Should those live in their own windows, too, like a normal app, or do you prefer to keep them in a browser tab where they feel like just another website and you’re reminded that they’re really virtual apps? We’d love to hear your thoughts on whether or not web and native apps — and the halfway house between the two that is Chrome offline apps — should have a difference, or if we’d all be better off if we treated all apps the same.


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