Web browsers like Google Chrome are now offering so much more

If I could call it that, Snake would be the first app I ever used. But then my Nokia 3310 was no smartphone. Back then, nothing was really smart, nothing that did not have a brain anyway. But it did everything that an app does, in a nutshell have enough potential to be addictive and keep you from doing whatever it is that you needed to.

Even when smartphones arrived on the market, some of the first apps were to be downloaded from web sites such as getjar.com. It seems like our digitised lives are coming full circle.

While app markets on smartphones seem to be the norm, web browsers too seem to be emulating the model to try and make life interesting if not easier for us. I am talking about the Google Chrome Web Store. Considering the fact that a lot of web users have shunned Internet Explorer and want more than what Mozilla Firefox can deliver to them at least on the desktop, it's commendable that Google has not just complacently maintained status quo but has already gone the extra mile to give users more reason to stay hooked.

What’s on offer

Here are a couple of examples to show you how the seemingly simplistic browser could make your online experience so much more interesting.

You can access the Google Chrome Web store once you are logged in to the browser through your Google account. The layout is similar to a mobile app market from where you might have downloaded apps earlier . There are a bunch of categories that you can directly go to and browse through, based on your interests.

So you can quickly add the usual suspects such as YouTube, Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, Evernote Web and so on. The next best thing to do is to explore the repository whenever you are busy procrastinating your work for the day.

One advantage of the Chrome app store is the fact that you can make use of not only apps but also plug-ins that run in the background while you browse on Chrome.

So you can install the StumbleUpon extension so that you don't necessarily have to go to the web site the next time you want to find interesting stuff on the web.

Another neat little add-on is Evernote Clearly. Saved as a cute little lamp icon on your Chrome toolbar, you can click on this when you want to read an article on the web without the ads or the clutter. Evernote Clearly automatically gets rid of all distractions on the page and lets you enjoy whatever you choose to read on the web. A couple of others that you could put to real good use are LastPass, a free app for you to manage your passwords, Instagram for Chrome - the hipster's quintessential app, Stylish - a web makeover of sorts for your favourite web sites such as Facebook and Pocket to mark web pages or articles that you might want to come back and read later.

All you need

When it comes to full-blown apps, you'll find almost all the popular ones that you might earlier have tried out on a mobile platform. Covering broad categories such as business tools, entertainment, lifestyle and utilities, it'll be quite a while before you find the apps on the Chrome web store redundant.

Compared to a mobile app market, Google seems to have curated the apps on the web store well to avoid spam as well as repetitive apps. Trying to augment Google+, the chrome web store shows you the most popular apps in your Circle. These are based on Google's concept of +1's which very few people seem to be exercising. You also get to browse through the most popular apps arranged according to whether they are 'Hot' or 'On Fire'.

One caveat is that a bunch of third-party applications might request access to your personal details and location when you consent to use the app. If you are someone who is very strict about online privacy, you could do without these apps. Also, if you go on an add-on spree like yours truly, you might end up slowing down the otherwise light and lightning fast Google Chrome.

mahananda.bohidar@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 6, 2012)
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