Google announces it will phase out Chrome Apps for all devices
In an email to developers sent on January 15, 2020, Google announced that it will end support for Chrome apps starting in 2021.
“As we previously announced in 2016, changes in support for Chrome Apps on Windows, MacOS and Linux will begin starting March 2020. We are writing to let you know the details about this plan, along with some important updates about ending Chrome app support on Chrome OS.
Starting this year, we will no longer provide support according to the following schedule. Please note, these timelines are for Chrome Apps only, and do not impact Chrome Extensions.
- March 2020: Chrome Web Store will stop accepting new Chrome apps
- June 2020: Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux will no longer be supported. Customers who have Chrome Enterprise or Chrome Education Upgrade will have access to a policy to extend support through December 2020.
- June 2021: Chrome Apps on Chrome OS will no longer be supported. Customers who have Chrome Enterprise or Chrome Education Upgrade will have access to a policy to extend support through June 2022.
- June 2022: Chrome Apps will no longer be supported on Chrome OS for all customers.”
Is this a big deal?
Chrome Apps were conceived in the era before Android and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as a way to develop advanced web applications.
Over the past three years, Chromebooks have gained the ability to access Android, Linux, and PWAs which have made Chrome Apps redundant.
According to Google, less than 1% of users are actively using Chrome Apps. Many Chrome Apps are little more than bookmarks to websites (although there are some notable exceptions such as Papercut Mobility Print, Chrome OS Recovery Utility, and Chrome Sign Builder).
What will replace Chrome Apps?
Developers have a little more than a year to migrate Chrome Apps to one of three platforms.
Support for Chrome Extensions remains unchanged. Some developers may decide to convert their Chrome app into a Chrome extension.
Progressive Web Apps
PWAs are nearly identical to Chrome Apps. The major difference is that a PWA is installed directly from the developer’s website, not from a centralized location like the Chrome Webstore.
PWAs are the most obvious replacement for Chrome Apps. Google has pledged support to help developers migrate existing Chrome Apps into PWAs.
If a website offers a PWA you will see a special icon appear in the Omnibox, near the bookmark star. Click this symbol to install the PWA on your device.
Chrome Canvas is a good example of a website that offers a PWA that you can install to your device.
Android Apps offer a wide range of capabilities that can handle complex tasks such as editing video and audio. Many existing Chrome Apps are available as Android Apps.
What about kiosk apps for standardized testing?
One of the most critical applications for Chrome Apps in classroom settings is managing state assessments. Testing apps like NWEA Secure Testing and AIR Secure Test will be impacted by this announcement.
I reached out to my contacts at Google for more information on the fate of secure testing on Chromebooks. Cyrus Mistry, Group Product Manager for ChromeOS Platforms & Ecosystems provided the following statement:
“Google will work closely with all major testing providers to ensure all schools have nothing to worry about as far as continuity of service.”
Cryus was an early guest on my podcast. During our conversation he shared some interesting stories about the early development of the ChromeOS platform.
Don’t panic…everything will be fine!
For education customers, support for Chrome apps will continue through June of 2022, giving everyone two full school years to review and test new solutions.
In their announcement, Google indicated that education customers would have the option to request an extension for Chrome app support through 2022.
Administrators will need to request this extension starting in June of 2020.
The transition away from Chrome Apps was inevitable.
While I’m a bit sad to see Chrome apps sail into the sunset, ultimately it makes a lot of sense as Chrome and Android become more closely linked and the native web becomes more capable.