In a project that is a bit over a year in the making, Google is updating the way the Files App on Chrome OS works in the background, and it should make for a much better experience across the board for users. Though this is a relatively significance back-end upgrade, you’d be hard pressed to really notice the change on your own. In the end, however, this update should unify Google’s cloud-based storage syncing across all platforms and eventually lead to better performance across them all.
I came across a commit last night that I’d not noticed before, even though I’ve since learned that the effort to bring Google Drive File Stream to Chrome OS is over a year in the making.
Remove legacy Drive file system type With the switch to DriveFS, the legacy drive client is no longer needed, so remove it.
Upon seeing this, I was immediately provoked to figure out what DriveFS was and how it was I’d missed a change so significant that it is reason to remove the existing Drive client for Chrome OS. For those a bit lost, the Drive client for any OS – including Chrome OS – is the vehicle that syncs that device to Google Drive on an ongoing basis. While I’m not sure what the actual name was for the existing Drive client on Chrome OS, I know that Google has been leveraging Drive File Stream (that’s what the FS stands for) on Mac and Windows for a long time now.
File Stream is the way non-Chromebook laptops connect with Google Drive in a full-sync manner, allowing users to virtually mount a Google Drive instance to their machine without the need of downloading everything in that account. The old implementation was similar to Dropbox where a small app is installed and users could choose what folders they would like synced. At this point, the synced folder contents would be downloaded to the user’s device and as changes were made, the app uploaded or downloaded the changed files to keep the cloud contents and local contents on the same page.
File Stream came in and did away with that and, frankly, removed one of the big selling points of Chromebooks over Windows and Mac laptops. I remember not long ago bragging to my Mac-using friends that I could keep all my cloud stuff synced up and use all of it locally without having to download anything. With File Stream, Google basically offered up Chromebook-type syncing for users on other platforms and, as it turns out, created something better than what it was using on Chrome OS.
Over the past year, it seems Google has been putting all the back-end pieces together to fully replace Chrome OS’ legacy Drive client with Drive File Stream and we never really saw it coming. That in and of itself is impressive, but the long-term benefits could be a real win here, too. If Google is now working on a single back-end protocol for all platforms that leverage Drive, more features can come down the pipe for users across the board.
One of those benefits I can already see with this enabled in Chrome OS 77 Beta is the real-time syncing that simply wasn’t occurring before. With one window open to Google Drive on the web and another with the Files App open to the same folder, I can make changes to either one and see those changes automatically appear on the other. With the legacy Drive client, those changes would only appear in the Files App when I closed and re-opened the folder I was manipulating. What that means is true real-time syncing now happening on Chrome OS in the Files App.
The benefits will surely expand beyond this as now Google can be working on the same G Suite updates and features across all platforms. We’re unsure of all the reasons for this update and all the potential benefits, but we can be sure that this will simplify Google’s ability to roll out unified features like Team Drives to Chrome OS just as easily as it can to Windows and MacOS at this point, and that could make for some exciting changes to the Files App on Chrome OS. We’ll be keeping an eye out for those changes and updates, so stay tuned.