02 September 2015

Chrome custom tabs smooth the transition between apps and the web

Originally posted on the Chromium blog

Posted by Yusuf Ozuysal, Chief Tab Customizer

Android app developers face a difficult tradeoff when it comes to showing web content in their Android app. Opening links in the browser is familiar for users and easy to implement, but results in a heavy-weight transition between the app and the web. You can get more granular control by building a custom browsing experience on top of Android’s WebView, but at the cost of more technical complexity and an unfamiliar browsing experience for users. A new feature in the most recent version of Chrome called custom tabs addresses this tradeoff by allowing an app to customize how Chrome looks and feels, making the transition from app to web content fast and seamless.

Chrome custom tabs with pre-loading vs. Chrome and WebView

Chrome custom tabs allow an app to provide a fast, integrated, and familiar web experience for users. Custom tabs are optimized to load faster than WebViews and traditional methods of launching Chrome. As shown above, apps can pre-load pages in the background so they appear to load nearly instantly when the user navigates to them. Apps can also customize the look and feel of Chrome to match their app by changing the toolbar color, adjusting the transition animations, and even adding custom actions to the toolbar so users can perform app-specific actions directly from the custom tab.

Custom tabs benefit from Chrome’s advanced security features, including its multi-process architecture and robust permissions model. They use the same cookie jar as Chrome, allowing a familiar browsing experience while keeping users’ information safe. For example, if a user has signed in to a website in Chrome, they will also be signed in if they visit the same site in a custom tab. Other features that help users browse the web, like saved passwords, autofill, Tap to Search, and Sync, are also available in custom tabs.

Custom tabs are easy for developers to integrate into their app by tweaking a few parameters of their existing VIEW intents. Basic integrations require only a few extra lines of code, and a support library makes more complex integrations easy to accomplish, too. Since custom tabs is a feature of Chrome, it’s available on any version of Android where recent versions of Chrome are available.

Users will begin to experience custom tabs in the coming weeks in Feedly, The Guardian, Medium, Player.fm, Skyscanner, Stack Overflow, Tumblr, and Twitter, with more coming soon. To get started integrating custom tabs into your own application, check out the developer guide.