Google Turns Apps Into Web Pages - Insanity!
Written by Mike James   
Monday, 30 November 2015

You may not like web pages that keep on trying to get you to install the app, but as programmers we know apps have advantages. Now Google is undoing all your hard work and turning your app back into a web page - the jargon is streaming apps. 


From your point of view the advantage of an app is that it is fully under your control and not limited by the rules of the browser. You can make it do things that browser-based apps can't. It also ties the user into your offerings because they are less likely to browse to another page as they would on a website.

The big disadvantage, from Google's point of view, is that it can't index your app as if it was part of the web and this spoils its goal of indexing all of the information in the universe.

It turns out that Google can actually index what's in your app and started doing so some two years ago, but the results aren't really useful. The problem is that the user is presented with a link to the app, but unless they install it they don't have access to the information. It just isn't the same as a link to a web page. 

Now Google has found a way to deliver the information in your app to the end user without them having to install your app at all. What they are doing is "streaming" the app to the user.  As the search blog puts it:

This uses a new cloud-based technology that we’re currently experimenting with.


What this means is that it is running the app on its servers and then sending the UI to the device as if it was a web page. Of course, it is easy to send an image of what the apps UI looks like - a simple bitmap will do the job - but it is harder to make the controls functional. There is no clue as to how Google is doing it, but a modified version of Android could generate HTML for the server to transmit to the user. 

"’re also going to start seeing an option to “stream” some apps you don’t have installed, right from Google Search, provided you’re on good Wifi. For example, with one tap on a “Stream” button next to the HotelTonight app result, you’ll get a streamed version of the app, so that you can quickly and easily find what you need, and even complete a booking, just as if you were in the app itself. And if you like what you see, installing it is just a click away. "

It is nice to know that Google is at least encouraging the user to install your app, but providing it in this way is likely to reduce the number installations. 

At the moment there are only nine apps being trialed: Chimani, Daily Horoscope, Gormey, Hotel Tonight, My Horoscope, New York Subway, Useful Knots, Visual Anatomy Free, and the Weather Channel.

What is interesting is that most of these don't provide any more information than the websites they are app fronts for, so it isn't clear why Google is bothering. 

It is certainly a strange world. We create apps as alternatives to web pages and get the user to run them on their device. Then Google steps in and converts them to web pages and runs the app on  their server.

No not strange - mad. 


More Information

New ways to find (and stream) app content in Google Search

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Last Updated ( Monday, 30 November 2015 )