Google had warned more than a year back that Chrome Apps will soon die out on Windows, Mac and Linux some time in 2017. That day has arrived and the App Store on Google Chrome is no longer available. This means you can’t install Chrome apps on your desktop anymore.
Google had explained its rationale in a blog post last year. Chrome apps are being killed because people hardly use them. “Approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps.”
Chrome apps are not completely gone though. You can still install a Chrome app by directly linking. So currently, only the searchable app section is dead. The Chrome apps are now listed in the Extensions section.
However, with the death of Chrome apps, Google is working on bringing Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to the desktop browser. PWAs are essentially websites with app-like features. You get a full screen interface, push notifications, offline capabilities and an installable app icon. PWAs are already live on Chrome for Android and once it comes to desktops, PWAs could very well become the only app type to work across desktop and mobiles. Google has said it will roll out PWAs for desktop sometime in mid-2018.
Till today, the Chrome app store housed apps in two flavours: “Hosted apps” and “Packaged apps.” Hosted apps were basically glorified links to websites with its own icon to easily access it from the homepage. It gave Chrome users a way to pin bookmarks to certain sections of the browser but didn’t really make any sense for a desktop user when there is already a bookmarks bar.
The second flavour, “packaged apps” were more of the real deal. Packaged apps (RIP) can run in the background and have access to hardware-level features like the USB ports.
There are also Chrome extensions which aren’t going anywhere. They are also desktop only and can be installed through the Chrome Web Store. Extensions usually live right next to the Address Bar. Password managers, ad blockers, and the likes are Chrome extensions, and are a key element in the Chrome desktop experience.
PWAs, on the other hand, aren’t exactly standard apps. It’s more of a catch-phrase for existing W3C standards for app icons, background updates, push notifications, etc. PWAs work across browsers and are not locked inside a single browser. Even Windows have announced it will bring PWAs to Windows 10 while Apple is already working on adding support for PWAs to Safari.