Ubuntu Web Apps aim to blur lines between desktop, and web apps

Starting with Ubuntu 12.10, users of the popular Linux-based operating system will be able to install and run web apps as if they were desktop applications. That’s thanks to a new feature called Ubuntu Web Apps.

Ubuntu Web Apps

The idea is that you’ll be able to launch web apps such as Gmail or Facebook from your desktop, without first opening a web browser (although the apps will actually run in a web browser). This means they’ll also run in their own windows, letting you switch between apps without adding extra tabs to your web browser session.

So far that kind of sounds like the Ubuntu developers are looking to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. I don’t know about you, but I don’t actually have a big problem switching between browser tabs. Treating web apps as desktop apps also isn’t a new idea. Mozilla tried the same thing with Mozilla Prism a few years ago, lettting you run web apps in their own dedicated windows.

But Ubuntu Web Apps go a bit further, allowing web apps to work with native desktop features. For instance, you’ll be able control online music sites from the Ubuntu Dash, get native desktop notofications for Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, upload pictures to Facebook from the Shotwell photo manager, and see your unread Gmail message count in the Ubuntu messaging indicator.

Ubuntu will also be able to manage your online accounts, keeping track of your login details and allowing you to share information, for instance, between your Google or Facebook accounts, for instance, and your photo management app.

Ubuntu Web Apps will be included by default in Ubuntu 12.10 when it’s released in October. An preview version is already available for installation on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS before that.

  • Mr. T

    Tabs in the browser are wonderful for web browsing (thanks, Opera), but, in my opinion, not so great for web applications like gmail. I use virtual desktops to organize my workflow, and for my use, if it feels like an application, it needs to have its own window. I can, of course, do this already by running multiple instances of a web browser, but it’s not the same. One of the big issues I have is that when I alt+tab through my running apps across multiple desktops, I can’t tell which instance of the browser to pick. Which one has gmail? Which one is logged into Facebook? Which one has all my programming documentation? Arrrgh!

    Then there’s the aesthetics of the thing: I don’t want all the extra UI crud of a web browser — even a very UI-slim one like Opera, Chrome, or the newer iterations of Firefox — sitting around clogging up screen space and making me feel like I’m using a fragile web application that could be blown to smithereens by an errant press on the “back” button. Please, let it feel like a real application, not just a web page.

    So, in my opinion, anything that will start to make web apps look and feel more like *real* applications is a step forward. And maybe it will convince more web developers to learn how to manage state correctly and build interfaces that don’t suck.