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Our commitment to a more capable web

November 12th, 2018

Since the beginning of Chrome we have worked to provide a solid foundation for modern web applications. Those capabilities have enabled new experiences on the web that were never thought possible. WASM is enabling new classes of games and productivity apps like Sketchup and AutoCAD, WebRTC enables new ways to communicate, and service workers allow developers to create reliably fast web experiences regardless of network conditions.

However, there are some capabilities, like file system access, idle detection, and more that are available to native but aren’t available on the web. These missing capabilities mean some types of apps can’t be delivered on the web, or are less useful. To cope, some developers build native apps or use wrappers like Cordova or Electron to access the underlying capabilities of the device.

We strongly believe that every developer should have access to the capabilities they need to make a great web experience, and we want to support them as they do.

Closing the gap

We want to close the capability gap between the web and native and make it easy for developers to build great experiences on the open web. Meanwhile we need to preserve everything that is great about the web. We will rapidly bring new, powerful, portable, and standardized capabilities that unlock key verticals on both mobile and desktop. Giving developers these new tools will empower the open web as a place where any experience can be created, and make the web a first class platform for developing apps that run on any browser, with any operating system, and on any device.

We plan to design and develop these new capabilities in an open and transparent way, using the existing open web platform standards processes while getting early feedback from developers and other browser vendors as we iterate on the design, to ensure an interoperable design.

Per our practice of open design and public iteration, look for many proposals for new designs to surface at the W3C‘s Web Incubator Community Group.

What are the initial capabilities?

We’ve identified and prioritized an initial set of capabilities we feel are critical to closing the gap between web and native and have already started work on a handful of them. You can see the list by searching the Chromium bug database for bugs that are tagged with proj-fugu.

Personally I’m really excited about the writable file API that make it possible to create web-based editors, and event alarms that help perform arbitrary work at some point in the future. But there are plenty more: Web Share Target, Async cookies, Wake Lock, WebHID, user idle detection, just to name a few.

Early feedback is critical

We developed a process to make it possible to design and develop new web platform capabilities that meet the needs of developers quickly, in the open, and most importantly, work within the existing standards process. It’s no different than how we develop every other web platform feature, but it puts an emphasis on developer feedback.

Developer feedback is critical to help us ensure we’re shipping the right features, but it’s easier to change course early in the process. That’s why we’re starting to ask for feedback earlier. When actionable technical and use-case feedback comes in early, it’s easier to course correct or even stop development, without having shipped poorly thought out or badly implemented features. Features being developed at WICG are not set in stone, and your input can make a big difference in how they evolve.

It’s worth noting that many ideas never make it past the explainer or origin trial stage. The goal of the process is to ship the right feature. That means we need to learn and iterate quickly. Not shipping a feature because it doesn’t solve the developer need is OK.

Getting everyone involved

The first API we’re looking for feedback on is the writable files API. We want to hear about your use cases and how you expect the security model to work. And keep an eye on our new capabilities page on developers.google.com/web to see the list of capabilities that we’re working on, and how you can participate.

The apps you want to build on the open web should only ever be limited by your imagination, never by missing capabilities. As we look to the future, the gap between web and native will get smaller as browser vendors add new capabilities to the web.

Here’s to a more capable open web.

Posted by Pete LePage, dreamer.