Google is now working to introduce new open-source API and web features that will help increase the impact of web applications and bridge the gap between those and web apps, the company recently revealed. More directly, the search giant is looking to move beyond the native-like capabilities of WebAssembly and web wrappers like Cordova or Electron, by finding new ways to allow web developers to access native resources. That includes enabling access to native hardware functionality such as providing "file system access, idle detection, and more." The exact purpose and consequences of that access on a given web app experience will vary from app to app but the underlying goal is to move web-based gaming, productivity, and creation software, with each running both smoothly and universally.
At the same time, the company wants to enable more capability – pointing specifically to modern web games and productivity or communication web apps such as Sketchup and AutoCAD or WebRTC, which are built on WebAssembly and service worker foundations. Another example of that can be found in Google's own Squoosh application, which enables rapid real-time photo and image editing and format conversions online or off while maintaining a smooth user experience. However, the new capabilities will almost certainly go much further, building on the powerful offline capabilities of apps like Squoosh with additions like writable file API, Web Share Target, Async cookies, Wake Lock, WebHID, and more. The first of those is currently the most complete and allows for event alarms, web-based editors, and other use cases in a native fashion without the massive overhead ordinarily associated with native software.
Background: In short, the search giant is looking to expand the latest innovations in web development into web browsers themselves while also extending the capabilities of web applications. All of that, according to the company, will help enrich the lives of users and the opportunities available to developers. But the news isn't necessarily arriving out of nowhere. Prior to this, the company has spent a substantial amount of resources and effort in preparing its browser for precisely these types of changes. Those have taken the form of new best practices guidelines, optimizations to the Chrome browser, and other steps taken to gradually increase the speed and overall performance of Chrome. Beyond that, it has additionally made efforts to reduce the overall forbearance of Chrome's UI, implemented new API for better fullscreen support, and made other tweaks to ensure that websites can already – at least outwardly – act like applications.
Impact: The new capabilities will allow users to have web-based experiences that enable interactions much more similar to those experienced with a smartphone app or software installed on a more traditional computer. That's good news for many internet users but could have the biggest impact on Chrome OS users, given the still somewhat lacking functionality in terms of software that a not-insignificant number of users still need. For example, full photo editing applications could become a possibility, as could other creative tools and editors that are not yet up-to-expectations on the platform. Moreover, such web apps would almost certainly lend themselves to filling out another Google OS that's currently under development. With that said, none of the new features are quite finished yet, there's no guaranteed timeframe for any of this to be implemented, and there are still concerns about privacy to address as well. In the meantime, Google is looking for feedback now and throughout the process, with new projects appearing in the Chromium bug database under the tag 'proj-fugu'.