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Thursday, August 15, 2019

That Native App Is Probably Just an Old Web Browser

Chromium browser logo.

Chrome didn’t just take over the web—it took over native apps, too. Many of the applications you run on Windows, Mac, and even Linux consist of outdated pieces of Chromium, the engine that forms the basis for Google Chrome.

Which Apps Are Built From Chromium?

There are several ways for a developer to construct an application using the Chromium browser engine. Electron is the most well-known, but many other applications use something called CEF, the Chromium Embedded Framework.

Chatting online? Slack is a popular application built with Electron. Taking notes? Evernote uses CEF, and Trello uses Electron. Playing music? Yep, you guessed it—Spotify uses CEF, and so does Amazon Music.

You might think Microsoft would shy away from Chromium because, after all, it created Windows. You’d be wrong. GitHub Desktop, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Visual Studio Code, and Yammer are all Electron apps. Even the new Xbox app for Windows 10 is built with Electron, rather than Microsoft’s own UWP (Universal Windows Platform.)

PC games mostly stick with native apps, but their launchers and associated chat tools certainly don’t. Discord and Twitch.tv use Electron. Battle.net, Desura, Epic Games Launcher, GOG Galaxy, Uplay, and even Steam all use CEF. EA’s Origin client uses Qt WebEngine, which also integrates Chromium code.

You can get an idea of how many applications use Chromium by skimming through the very incomplete lists of Electron and CEF apps on Wikipedia. Backup apps, like CrashPlan, are included there, as well as antivirus apps, like Bitwarden, and utilities, like Adobe Creative Cloud.

RELATED: What Are Electron Apps, and Why Have They Become So Common?

It’s Like a Web App (But Uses More RAM and Storage)

Slack memory usage in the Windows Task Manager.

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