Google is working on a minimal environment that allows Chrome packaged apps to run without requiring the whole Chrome process. Currently called app_shell, this is still an experimental project, but the broader goal appears to be minimizing the resources required to run Chrome apps.

The news comes by means of a Chromium Code Review we found with the minimal description “[App Shell] Add README.” This led us to the readme for the project, which is also very short but contains the essentials:

#Introduction
app_shell is an experimental project to build a minimal environment like content_shell. The goal is to be able to run a v2 app and supply most of the chrome.* extension APIs without running the rest of Chrome.

app_shell is only officially supported on Chrome OS.

#How to run
app_shell –app=/path/to/extension

Put another way, Google isn’t happy with just bringing Google apps to Android and iOS along with all the main desktop platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux). No, the company is considering completely ripping the Chrome part out of Chrome apps, leaving in only the necessary APIs, so that developers can build cross-platform Web apps that really are comparably fast to native apps.

For those who don’t know, Chrome packaged apps are written in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, but launch outside the browser, work offline by default, and access certain APIs not available to Web apps. In other words, they’re Google’s way of pushing the limits of the Web as a platform, which may one day no longer include the company’s browser-as-an-operating-system strategy.

It’s easy to see that if the company can get app_shell working on Chrome OS, it will bring the environment to Chrome as well. You can already launch Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux without the need for a Chrome window, but soon you won’t even need the full Chrome process in the background either.

We have contacted Google for more information about this project but didn’t hear back. We will update this article if that changes.

Update: Google declined to comment.

See also – Chrome Web Store to get multi-platform app support for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and Chrome OS and Google is building a Chrome app-based development environment called Spark

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