In this series we remember applications from the past that were very popular at the time and that we do not hear so much about today. After remembering Fring, Camera Zoom FX and Advanced Task Killer, today it is the turn of Link Bubble, a browser that opened the links in a floating bubble and in the background.
Link Bubble was born in 2014 by Chris Lacy, the developer of Action Launcher (and other applications), giving a dimension to multitasking on an Android where that of opening two applications at the same time was still in its infancy. Being such a revolutionary application for its time, you don’t hear much about it these days, What became of Link Bubble?
What was special about it?
Link Bubble is an application with which you could open web pages in floating bubbles, although it did not seek to replace your browser, but to complement it. The idea was to use it to open links from other applications in the background and thus avoid having to switch between two applications (the original app and the browser), when you need to open several links.
For example, if you were looking at Twitter and clicked on a link in a tweet, with Link Bubble that link would open in the background in a floating bubble, without interrupting your browsing. You could continue browsing Twitter and pop up the bubble to view the web page at any time. When you finish with the link, you close the bubble and it’s over.
With Link Bubble you could open the web links within an application in a floating bubble, without leaving the application
Over time Link Bubble added additional functions by dragging the bubbles to areas of the screen with which you could share a link or save it to Pocket, without the need to switch to a full browser.
Yes OK Link Bubble did not invent floating bubbles -Facebook Messenger added them a year before- helped popularize them for more than just chatting and many years before Google considered including them natively in Android.
Although in a way it was a simple concept, it was a unique concept And that came before the Chrome Custom Tabs of 2015, the favorite method that applications have today to open links “within their application”, without having to resort to the browser.
What has become of Link Bubble?
Link Bubble saw the light on Android in 2014 as a free app with certain limitations. The free version allowed you to open a single link in the background, something you could unlock with Link Bubble Pro, with a price of around 3.5 euros.
The application never became a download bomb – the latest figure collected by Google Play is 500,000 downloads – but it won the award for one of the best Google Play apps of 2014 and an average mark of more than 4 stars. Whoever liked it, liked it very much.
A year later, its author sold Link Bubble and TapPath to a startup by Brian Bondy, a former Mozilla employee. TapPath was an application with similar functionality, which allowed you to customize what happened when clicking on a link in an application, with different actions depending on whether you made a single or double tap, etc. Due to the sale, Link Bubble became free and refunds were promised for those who had recently paid for the Pro version.
Link Bubble had a short but intense life, changing hands and names several times.
Over time, it was revealed that That startup Link Bubble was sold to was Brave, and the app underwent a transformation to include home improvements such as ad blocking and tracking. During this transition, Link Bubble was renamed Brave Browser.
The name change lasted a few months, and in November 2016 the application recovered the name of Link Bubble, as Brave was the name of the full browser of the house, based on Chromium.
Again, the change did not last long. Four months later, Brave announced that would close Link Bubble due to technical problems and the way it handles the rendering of web pages in the background. Instead, the company preferred to focus on its traditional browser, Brave. Link Bubble was unpublished from Google Play on March 10, 2017.
Does it still make sense today?
Link Bubble solved a problem that is not so relevant today: switch between applications or open links without leaving an application. Much of the blame is on controversies Chrome Custom Tabs, the invention to include “browsers” within applications. It is not the same as what Link Bubble offered, but they are another solution to the same problem.
While Chrome Custom Tabs are the preferred solution today for opening links without leaving an app, Link Bubble’s legacy lives on in Android bubbles.
The new multitasking options that are present in the current Android -split screen, PIP mode, even desktop mode with free windows- did not exist in 2014, and partially fulfill the improvement in productivity derived from Link Bubble, although it is still not exactly what same. The concept of open links in the background Link Bubble does not fit 100% with these solutions, so it is not surprising that apps similar to Link Bubble, such as Flynx or FlyperLink, continue to exist on Google Play.
We may not need Link Bubble today as it was in 2014, but the fact that Google officially included notification bubbles in Android 11 – and is improving them in Android 12 – gives us an idea that Link Bubble’s legacy lives on. Not just for app links, but for everything. Android opens the door for any app to turn its notifications into bubbles, without having to depend on an application like Link Bubble for it.