Google Chrome becomes a ‘picture-in-picture’ app

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As competition in the browser market heats up, thanks to innovations from startups like Arc and others, Google is preparing to make a notable change to how its Chrome browser operates. The company announced Wednesday that it’s introducing a new feature called “Minimized Custom Tabs” that will allow users to move between a native app and their web content with a tap. When doing so, the Custom Tab becomes a small, picture-in-picture window that floats above the native app content.

The new addition focuses on the use of Custom Tabs, a feature in Android browsers that gives app developers a way to add a customized browser experience directly in their app. Instead of opening the user’s browser or a WebView — which doesn’t support all the features of the web platform — Custom Tabs let users remain in their app while browsing. For developers, the use of Custom Tabs can increase app engagement and reduce the risk of users leaving the app and not returning.

Image Credits: Google

By turning the Custom Tab into a picture-in-picture window, shifting to the web experience may feel more natural — and more like you’re still inside the native app. The change could also be useful to developers who are pointing their customers to a website to sign up for accounts or subscriptions, as it makes it easier for the user to move back and forth between the website and the native app.

While minimized to the picture-in-picture window, the Custom Tab can be docked off to the side of the screen. When the page is maximized, the user can tap on a down arrow to shrink it to the picture-in-picture window again.

The new web experience comes at a time when Google is making accessing the web a more baked-in experience on Android. With features like Circle to Search and other AI-powered integrations, people can find their way to the web via gestures like circling or highlighting items.

The change is rolling out in the latest version of Chrome (M124) and will be automatically applied anywhere developers are already using Chrome’s Custom Tabs. Google notes that while the change is affecting Chrome browsers, it hopes other browser makers will adopt similar functionality.

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