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Home / Tips and Tricks / This native app is probably just an old web browser

This native app is probably just an old web browser



  Chromium browser logo.

Chrome not only took over the Web, but also native apps. Many of the applications you run on Windows, Mac, and even Linux are outdated parts of Chromium, the engine that forms the basis for Google Chrome.

Which apps are created from Chromium?

There are several ways for a developer to build an application using the Chromium browser engine. Electron is the best known, but many other applications use CEF (Chromium Embedded Framework).

Chat online? Slack is a popular application developed with Electron. Taking notes? Evernote uses CEF and Trello Electron. Play music? Yes, you guessed it ̵

1; Spotify also uses CEF and Amazon Music.

You might think Microsoft would shy away from Chromium because it eventually created Windows. You are wrong. GitHub Desktop, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Visual Studio Code, and Yammer are all Electron applications. Even the new Xbox app for Windows 10 was created with Electron and not with Microsoft's own Universal Windows Platform (UWP).

PC games mostly stay with native apps, but their startup programs and associated chat tools are certainly not working. Discord and Twitch.tv use Electron. Battle.net, Desura, Epic Games Launcher, GOG Galaxy, Uplay and even Steam use CEF. EA's Origin client uses Qt WebEngine, which also integrates Chromium code.

You can see how many applications are using Chromium by looking at Wikipedia's very incomplete lists of Electron and CEF apps. It includes backup apps like CrashPlan and antivirus apps like Bitware and utilities like Adobe Creative Cloud.

RELATED: What are electron apps and why are they so common? ?

It's like a Web application (but requires more RAM and memory)

 Memory usage in the Windows Task Manager.

Any Electron or CEF-based application contains a separate copy of parts of chrome. Applications using Electron and CEF are similar to web applications in your web browser, but are less efficient and use more space on your system.

If you open Gmail on one Chrome tab and Facebook on another, only on your operating system will need to run a copy of Chrome. However, if you run two different Electron or CEF applications, your operating system will need a separate copy of Electron or CEF.

It's not uncommon for an electron-based application to consume extra RAM. Because each of these applications contains separate Chromium files, they take up extra space on your system.

Why are they obsolete and is this a problem?

Electron's security documentation explains why the code is based on outdated Chromium versions:

"While Electron strives to support new versions of Chromium as soon as possible, developers should be aware that the upgrade a serious endeavor – with the processing of tens or even hundreds of files by hand. With resources and contributions available today, Electron will often not be available in the latest version of Chromium, and will be left behind for a few weeks or months.

Even after the Electron project has created this new version, developers creating Electron applications must do so. Take this code, integrate it into their electron applications, and send an update.

However, this is not as scary as it sounds. In the Electron documentation, developers are advised to avoid displaying untrusted code, relying primarily on local resources or trusted, secure remote content. Because of this, many Electron applications do not seem to be web browsers. For example, Slack uses web technologies to provide a chat interface, but you call your web browser when you click a link.

Why do developers use chrome?

Developers like these solutions because they use web technologies. with which most are already familiar. As Electron proudly announces on its homepage: "If you can create a website, you can create a desktop app."

But they are more powerful than simple web apps. Electron applications can access your file system and other local system resources. Many CEF apps are native applications that embed a Chromium browser. For example, Steam embeds a browser to display the store and community user interfaces.

Elektron apps are also cross-platform like Chromium. You can run an application like Slack on Windows, Mac, Linux, and the Web. A developer could not build a cross-platform app if she was dependent on Microsoft Edge or Apple Safari technologies. Developers want to build an application once and run it everywhere. This saves a lot of time and resources compared to creating a native application for each platform.

These chrome-based solutions offer many improvements over the previous ones. Before the introduction of CEF, Internet Explorer was embedded by Steam. Many Windows applications have just embedded an Internet Explorer interface – we're much better off with chrome.

PWAs could offer a way out

Electron, CEF and similar technologies They have many advantages, but they also have some disadvantages. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) may one day provide a way out, as they allow modern web apps to work offline. Unlike Electron and CEF, however, PWAs use your default web browser in the background. You can also install them through your web browser. Chromium code does not have to be manually updated and bundled.

When Microsoft switches to a Chromium-based version of its Edge browser, it's interesting to see if PWAs successfully compete with Electron. It would definitely be a cleaner solution with less storage space.

RELATED: What are progressive web apps?


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