Google has a plan to let you use Android apps without downloading anything

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Google imagines a world where you could use an Android app without actually downloading anything.

The company previewed a new project called Android Instant Apps at its IO developers' conference on Wednesday which will let people tap on a URL and open an Android app instantly without having to install it.

Instant Apps are an expansion of the mobile app streaming Google started testing with a few beta partners last fall. The company's vision is that you could get the full experience of using an app, without the commitment or smartphone space required to download. The rationale is, if you only want to use the capabilities of a given app once a month, should it really take up space on your phone? And letting people use apps without making the download would give developers access to more potential users.

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"This is a big change, so it's going to take some time," the company says in its blog post on the news.

Google has been working with a small set of partners, including Buzzfeed and Hotel Tonight, and says that developers won't have to build separate apps, but just update their existing ones.

For Google's part, Instant Apps also help protect its search business. Google has spent the last two years convincing app makers to "index" their content to allow it to be searchable by its algorithms in a process called "deep linking." Without deep linking, Google's web crawlers can't include an apps info in its search results.

Google recently announced that more than half of its search queries come from mobile. But that stat crashes into another one: That people spend most of their time on smartphones within specific apps - so much that app usage now represents 86% of time spent on mobile, according to analytic company Flurry.

Google wants users to start their search for "best hotels in Chicago" through its engine rather than starting on HotelTonight, because that allows it to sell ads against those searches.

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