There are quite a few web apps for Chrome that seem to be nothing more than ‘prettified’ shortcuts to our favorite websites, but is that all they are, or is there more to them? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answers.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader kolypto wants to know what, if any, benefits there are to installing Chrome apps that duplicate a website:

There are a number of Chrome apps that seem to be nothing more than shortcuts to various web services. Some examples are:

They do not seem to add or modify any features outside of placing a shortcut on the “Apps” page. Are there any reasons for installing these? What do they actually do?

Are these types of Chrome apps merely ‘prettified’ shortcuts, or is there more to them than we are aware of?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor joejoe31b has the answer for us:

This Google Developer page details the differences between hosted and packaged apps. In a nutshell, the main difference between them is that hosted apps are the ones you are thinking of (ones that display a hosted website), and packaged apps are apps that are more self-contained (and include most, if not all, of their HTML and CSS files, or resources).

On the WrongPlanet forums, there was an interesting page here that describes some of the reasons why a developer might make a hosted app. One reason that ‘Apple in my Eye‘ pointed out was:

  • It may be a website technically, but it functions indistinguishably from a normal non-web browser app. Also, turning it into a shortcut strips away all the irrelevant browser controls so that it looks like a normal app window.

NeantHumain‘ continued the discussion by saying:

  • Google Chrome apps are just web apps written in HTML5 that take advantage of new features like: canvas, video, SVG, WebGL, and a bunch of new APIs that can be accessed through JavaScript. They can be used for everything from geo-location, offline storage, and/or web workers for a sort of multithreading.

So, in other words, it seems that more goes on in the background of a hosted app than just displaying a webpage. It allows the developer to extend the functionality of the website, and bypass some of the restrictions that a normal website may encounter.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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