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Lackluster sales on Chrome Web Store continue; are people ready to pay for browser-specific Web apps?

Chrome Web Store low salesAt the time of writing, the top paid app on the Chrome Web Store has 65 weekly installs. The top game fares a little better, with a few hundred weekly installs. After months of hype from Google and a delayed launch, those figures seem a little -- how can I say this -- weak?

The fact is, paid-for Web apps might be taking things just a little too far. If the Web has proven one thing, other than rule 34, it's that surfers will always opt for the free option if there is one. That's not to say that users won't pay for Web apps, but in most cases Web apps are so similar to free websites that paying for them seems rather counterintuitive. It's a bit like paying for brand-name toilet paper: it might feel a little softer, but ultimately it's just a waste of money.

There seems to be a similar trend with smartphones, too: while games are selling well, many commercial apps that replicate basic, free, website-level functionality simply aren't selling well. Take a look at the list of top paid iPhone apps, where there are only two non-games in the top 20. It sure looks like users aren't willing to invest in non-essential, platform-specific apps.

Having said all that, it's still very early days for the Chrome Web Store, and relatively few users even know of its existence. Later this year we should see Mozilla's offering, too, and presumably it'll be very easy to port Chrome Web apps to Firefox. Finally, there's Chrome OS, an operating system that will only use websites and Web apps. If Chrome OS gains traction and Mozilla delivers on its Open Web Apps, mass adoption of Web apps will surely follow. Just a handful of big, paid-for apps from big names like Adobe and Microsoft would be more than enough to kick-start the Web as real platform for software development.

Tags: chrome os, chrome web store, ChromeOs, ChromeWebStore, mozilla, open web apps, OpenWebApps, web apps, web store, WebApps, WebStore