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Chrome to Connect Web Apps with Android Like ‘Web Intents’

Google has announced that it’s plan to integrate Web Intents into Chrome.

So what exactly are Web Intents? The name and the purpose are both similar to the Intents system that’s present in Google’s Android mobile operating system platform.

“In the Intents system, the client application requests a generic action, e.g. share, and specifies the data to pass to the selected service application. The user is given a list of apps which’ve registered that they can handle the requested intent. The user-selected app is created in a new context and passed the data sent from the client, the format of which’s predefined for each specific intent type,” explains James Hawkins, Software Engineer.

In short, Intents allow two separate applications to communicate with each other, without either of them having to actually know what the other one is. Instead, they offer and listen for generic hooks. On Android this means that if you install a new image editing app, the default Gallery app doesn’t have to integrate any special APIs in order to send a photo to that editing app. Likewise in the case of a web app, this means that a new photo hosting site could easily integrate editing functionality from something like Aviary or Picnik, without either of those services needing to implement a special API unique to that photo hosting site.

Hawkins said that,

We’re hard at work designing an analogous system for the web: Web Intents. This web platform API will provide the same benefits of Android Intents, but better suited for web apps. When designing the system, we’ve first and foremost been interested in creating a simple, easy-to-use API. With Web Intents, you’ll be able to connect your web app to a service with as little as two lines of code! Chrome will perform the heavy lifting for you. As with Android, Web Intents documents an initial set of intent actions (edit, view, share, etc.) that likely cover the majority of use cases on the web today; however, as the web grows and sites provide more functionality, new intent actions will be added by services that document these intents, some more popular than others. To foster development and use of intents, we plan to create a site to browse existing intents and add new intents.

Twitter and Mozilla with its Web Activities and Web Apps are already exploring this space.

You can visit the examples page to try out the feature in any current browser. Or, to explore using the API in your site, check out out the JavaScript shim, which provides an implementation of the API for browsers that have not implemented this feature.

[Source: Chromium blog]

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