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Software & Web Development

Google axes the Chrome App Launcher

Google today said it would retire its Chrome App Launcher on Windows, OS X and Linux in July, citing user indifference.

"We've found that users on Windows, Mac, and Linux prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome," said Marc Pawliger, a Chrome engineering director, in a short post to a company blog Wednesday.

"Beginning in a few weeks, Chrome will no longer enable the launcher when users first install a Chrome app," Pawliger added. "Anyone who currently has the launcher will receive a notice informing them that the launcher will be going away. In July, existing instances of the launcher will be removed."

Chrome App Launcher debuted on Windows and OS in 2013, and on Linux the following year.

The launcher was separate from the Chrome browser, and added another user interface (UI) for customers to manage. At the time of its release, the launcher was seen as one more tactic Google used to try to subvert a machine's actual operating system, and in places substitute the Mountain View, Calif. company's own browser-based Chrome OS UI.

Chrome apps will not go away, Pawliger stressed: They can still be called from the browser itself via the multi-colored icon at the far left of the bookmarks bar, or by typing chrome://apps in the search field.

Web apps designed for Chrome can be downloaded and installed from Google's Chrome Web Store, the only authorized distribution mart.

But while Pawliger asserted that users preferred to fire up an app from Chrome itself, many users who appended comments to the announcement disagreed.

"I think your claim that most users 'prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome' is hogwash," said Leon Amarant today. "The App Launcher is a great feature that seems to [have] suffered from poor marketing/integration. My vote is to, at a minimum, keep it as a feature for those who would like to use it ... and judging from the other comments, I'm not alone."

He wasn't.

"Extremely disappointed," echoed Aaron Neufeld. "I use this constantly (read: all day at work), whether it is launching apps, starred pages, or new searches. I'd say close to 75% of my app 'launching' (in Windows) is via the Chrome App Launcher."

"Once again, Google half-asses the execution of an idea and then is shocked when people don't use it," huffed Darren Silinski. "I love the app launcher and have set a number of apps to open up as windows instead of tabs. This is pretty disappointing and is a step backwards for Chrome in my eyes."

Pawliger did not tap the specific version of Chrome that will automatically eliminate the app launcher, but it could be as soon as version 52, which under an every-six-week schedule, would release in early July.

Chrome's production code, dubbed the "Stable" branch, now stands at version 49.

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