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Google is finally making web apps first-class citizens on Android
Google announced today that it'll be further integrating web apps into Android. Now, web apps will appear in the app drawer alongside full applications, and offer the same notification controls, where previously Google had set them to only appear as home screen icons.
It's part of a push by Google to promote Progressive Web Apps, which are essentially web applications that launch straight to whatever content they link to and are meant to feel more like an app then simply another tab. To create these apps on your home screen, you still will use the “Add to Home Screen” feature in Chrome.
To be clear, these aren't Google's Instant Apps — a feature which allows Android users to “stream” actual applications after clicking a link. These are still just a better integration of saved web applications, something we've had around on smartphones since the original iPhone in 2007. That said, it's still a useful addition and Progressive Web apps are much more advanced than you might expect: they can load data in the background, present OS-level controls in the notifications, and much more.
Overall, the improvements should be welcome by Android users who want to keep web links to sites like Facebook or Twitter handy without having to install the full native app. The updated Add to Home Screen feature should be rolling out to the Chrome Beta on Android over the next few weeks.