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article imageChrome app launcher being killed off as Google simplifies browser

By James Walker     Mar 23, 2016 in Technology
Google has announced it will remove the app launcher from Windows, Mac and Linux versions of its popular Chrome web browser. The company is making the change to streamline the browsing experience as few people actively use the feature.
Chrome's app launcher acts as a quick-access shortcut to web apps and Chrome extensions. It is designed to bridge the gap between the native desktop interfaces of Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and the online services that users can add to Chrome.
The app launcher can be recognised as a multi-coloured grid icon that is pinned to the Windows taskbar or Mac dock. Clicking the icon opens a pane containing shortcuts to each installed Chrome app. The launcher's interface is essentially identical to the app drawer on Google's own Chrome OS, merging the familiar desktop with modern web apps.
In practice, few people actually use the app launcher though. On Windows, Mac and Linux, web apps generally have less functionality than comparable offerings and aren't widely used. When they are included in a person's workflow, Google says they are usually opened from within Chrome anyway, rendering the app launcher obsolete.
"The app launcher makes Chrome apps easy to open outside the browser, but we’ve found that users on Windows, Mac, and Linux prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome," the company said. "With Chrome’s continued emphasis on simplicity and streamlining browser features, the launcher will be removed from those platforms. It will remain unchanged on Chrome OS."
Within the next few weeks, Google will begin the process of removing the launcher. Chrome will cease to automatically enable it when an app is installed and current users will be notified of the feature's impending removal. By July, the app launcher will be gone entirely. Google will unpin it from the taskbar and dock on configured systems.
The change has been made as part of Google's ongoing work to speed up and declutter Chrome. The browser has become increasingly feature-rich over years of regular development and has begun to grow to unhealthy proportions. Chrome has acquired a reputation for being memory-hungry and resource intensive, draining battery on laptops and not performing reliably on lower-specification machines.
Other features that Google has killed include the desktop notification centre, another little-used component designed to blur the lines between a user's computer and online web apps. It has also disabled support for always-on "OK Google" voice searching, freeing up processor resources formerly devoted to the complex feature.
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