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Fuchsia Friday: What are Stories and Modules?

Earlier this week, we took a broad look at what Google’s Fuchsia OS could mean if and when it’s finished. Today, we begin a new series of diving in and taking a closer look at the variety of unique features and changes that the operating system offers. Our first topic is Stories and Modules, and how they could radically change the way you use your phone and desktop.

In Android and iOS, your apps are either open or closed. If you want to open or do more than one thing, most apps just offer a tab view, like your browser. Some apps, like YouTube, don’t even allow that much.

Fuchsia’s modular system shakes up the smartphone dynamic. Every app consists of one or more ‘modules’, which act as a view or a possible action. Each module is standalone and can be opened multiple times (like having two calculators open, for instance).

This alone is a big improvement, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Fuchsia also introduces the idea of stories. A story is one or more modules from different apps (or the same app) combining together to make one task or complete thought, whether they were originally designed to do so or not.

Applications not explicitly designed to interoperate (and possibly implemented in different programming languages) are ephemerally downloaded and dynamically composed to run in a shared context.

A story is a logical container for a root application along with associated data. An instance of a story can be created, deleted, started and stopped by the system in response to user actions. Creating a new story instance creates an entry in the user’s ledger which stores the data associated with this story instance; deleting a story instance deletes the associated data.

(‘Ledger’ here is referring to the local-first, cloud-based record of what the user is doing across all their Fuchsia devices. To get a better idea, check out our deep dive into Ledger.)

Note the tabs at the top

Interestingly, Fuchsia doesn’t have “Recent Apps” like a current smart device OS, but instead “Recent Stories.”

Each module opens in its own story, and to make a combined story, simply drag two stories together and resize your view to meet your needs. You can continue to expand in this way without any apparent limits, though this is likely to change in some future final build of Fuchsia.

Let’s use writing a research paper as a practical example. You open Google Docs to write, and Chrome to do some searching. For convenience, you open Recent Stories and drag together Chrome and Docs. This puts them together in a tab view, or you can have them in a split-screen configuration. You get to work and decide you need a place to keep notes. Simply open up Google Keep or Evernote and drag it into your Story. Now you can adjust your view to split however you think best, probably Google Docs on the left half and Chrome and your notes split horizontally on the right.

Your “Now” feed will also contain suggestions of stories you may want to start or past stories to resume, such as conversations to resume, places to go, emails to check, and more.

It’s also implied that some of these actions may directly open more than one module, or that you may end up with modules being added or removed from your story naturally as the story progresses. Most interestingly, you may not even have to install the required module first, like an improved version of Android’s Instant Apps.

Altogether, Stories are designed to change the way we do things on our devices by keeping our thoughts organized into coherent tasks, rather than separated out on an app-by-app basis. And I’m sure once we get our hands on it, we’ll wonder how we ever worked without it.

Fuchsia Friday is a weekly series where we dive into the Fuchsia source code and interpret what the current state of the OS might mean for the finished product. All information in this article is speculation based on available information and is subject to change.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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