The line between apps and web content can be blurry, and actually, keeping it blurry is a better experience—it can be jarring to tap on something inside an app and suddenly be bumped off to a web browser. Chrome Custom Tabs, a new feature coming to Android M, aims to smooth the transition.
Announced Thursday at the Google I/O keynote, Chrome Custom Tabs gives developers a way to skin a Chrome tab with custom colors to make it look more like the native app. The tab runs right on top of the app, and the app can pre-fetch web content so that tab loads more quickly when the user taps on something to launch it. Best of all, a back button takes you right back to where you left off in the app.
The Pinterest app shown at the keynote is the perfect example, because every pin in Pinterest links out to something on the wider Web. Tapping a link for an article on Apartment Therapy loaded a Chrome Custom Tab with Pinterest’s pale green color scheme carried over, and the article appeared in no time since the content was preloaded behind the scenes.
Standard Chrome features are available, like saved passwords, sign-in, autofill, and Chrome’s multi-process security model. Chrome Custom Tabs are available in the SDK developers are getting today, and will roll out to users in Q3 2015.