With ChromeOS, Google will soon launch an operating system that makes web apps the center of the user experience. No other vendor currently offers a similar experience, but with Webian Shell, there is now a project that plans to offer a full-screen web browser “for devices that don’t need a desktop.” Developer Ben Francis, a member of the Mozilla community and a contributor to the Mozilla Chromeless project that Webian Shell is based on, says that the idea behind the project is to “replace your computer’s interface with something much simpler, which treats web applications as first class citizens and does away with all the un-necessary clutter.”
Webian Shell is currently only in its prototype stage, but you can download a fully functional preview version for Mac, Windows and Linux here.
I don’t think we’ll see any Webian notebooks and tablets soon, but given enough support from the Mozilla community, this project could introduce ChromeOS-like features to devices based around Mozilla’s browser technology. ChromeOS, after all, is based on Linux and it’s not hard to imagine a Linux distribution that could boot right into a future version of Webian Shell and give users access to the Web and their favorite web apps.
In its current form, the program presents you with a minimalist browser interface (back and forward buttons and a URL bar at the top, tabs, a ‘home’ button and a clock at the bottom). You can’t actually install any web apps yet, but Francis also plans to offer home screens with in lieu of a desktop in one of the next versions. Other potential features include a split-screen mode to view two pages side-by-side and the integration of an on-screen keyboard for tablets.