Over the past year, the discussion around Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) has grown in tech media as more browsers have started to embrace support.
But what exactly is a PWA and how is it different from older web-wrapper apps? Is this another attempt to reach Microsoft’s stars or a legitimate alternative to native apps on mobile and PC?
Microsoft recently detailed his plans in depth for Windows 10 Redstone 4 for PWAs, Edge browser, and Microsoft Store. I also wrote an intro on who is really behind PWAs and why.
But in today’s video, I want to answer a few specific questions about PWAs, Microrosft, and what it means for Windows 10.
Related: PWAs May Be the Great Equalizer for Microsoft, Google, and Apple
PWA – Who’s on board?
Besides Apple, Microsoft, and Google who support PWAs in their respective browsers, many companies are already setting up their websites for adaptive PWA status. Here are some of the big brands now PWA compatible:
There are some limitations though, at least with Google Maps, which doesn’t yet do turn-by-turn navigation.
Alibaba, Medium, Flipboard, Snapdeal, Trivagao, The Weather Channel, The Financial Times, Pokedex.org, GitHub Explorer, Flipkart, Offline Wikipedia, and Forbes have all launched PWA-enabled websites as well.
Same Games can be PWAs. Want official 2048? To manage here on your PWA compatible browser to try it out.
Even Microsoft’s online services, like Outlook.com, are now PWA compliant. There are currently thousands of PWA-enabled websites, and more companies are enabling adaptive website controls with Service Workers to ensure compatibility.
Pinterest wrote a detailed blog post about her experience switching to a PWA-enabled website, which is a great read.
With access to cameras, offline data storage, GPS, motion sensors, notifications, face detection and bio-authentication, there are very few “limits” to PWAs compared to to the old web-wrappers. When combined with Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP), PWAs become even more native with additional capabilities.
If you have an Android phone with 7.1.1 or later and Chrome or Microsoft Edge browser, you can visit any of the sites mentioned above to try PWA today.
The process for putting the site in PWA mode varies a bit. Most sites require that you log in first, which then prompts the user to ask “Add to Home” and send notifications. This shortcut that is created is now the PWA for this site. Microsoft Edge users on Android can use the “Add to Home Screen” feature in the ellipsis menu to force it.
For those who are using Windows 10 and using Fast Ring Insider Build and Microsoft Edge, you can also try PWAs. Enabling a website’s notifications will bring them into the Windows Action Center, just like any app, and users can pin the PWA to their Start menu or taskbar.
Discoverability of PWAs is an issue
Perhaps the only problem with PWA-enabled sites acting as apps is discoverability. Users can still go to the Google Play Store and install Instagram or Twitter. They can also pin both sites as a PWA on their home screen, which of them instances of “application”.
Google has not disclosed its plans to get around this problem. Instagram or Twitter, in theory, could replace their apps in the Google Play Store with a PWA version if Google allows it.
The latter method is what Microsoft does. Instead of letting people accidentally “discover” PWAs through a web browser, they simply add them to the Microsoft Store. After all, if you want the Pinterest app, your first point of discovery is the Store to see if there is an app.
The way Microsoft is going to do this is fascinating. Of the recent Microsoft Edge Developer blog post:
In the next version of Windows 10, we plan to start listing PWAs in the Microsoft Store. Progressive web apps installed through the Microsoft Store will be packaged as an app in Windows 10 – running in their own sandboxed container, without the visual or browser resource overhead.
This has a number of benefits for users: PWAs installed through the store will appear in “app” contexts such as Start and Cortana search results, and will have access to the full suite of WinRT APIs available to you. UWP applications. They can differentiate their Windows 10 experience with improvements like access to local calendar and contact data (with permission) and more.
There are two ways to get these PWAs into the Store:
- Developers can proactively submit PWAs to the Microsoft Store.
- The Microsoft Store, powered by the Bing crawler, will automatically index selected quality PWAs.
This second step is critical. Microsoft does not rely on websites to manually add PWAs to the Microsoft Store for the list. At first the company will add the best to the store manually and later the Bing crawler will. automatically.
It’s an aggressive strategy for PWAs, but Microsoft believes in treating web apps like “citizens of the first class” on Windows 10.
Will PWA “Solve” Mobile for Microsoft?
Finally, the big question is, does this really help Microsoft in solving the app gap issue? It certainly doesn’t hurt, and yes, does make it better.
It remains to be seen whether the PWA-UWP hybrid solution is significant in the long run for Windows 10 – and in particular Microsoft’s next mobile push with Andromeda.
Still, if you’ve tried a PWA on your Android phone like Twitter, Uber, or others, you should be impressed with how native it looks. The point is that many companies are move towards the PWA model because it is cheaper, easier to maintain, uses less bandwidth, and allows them to reach all platforms without having to code them independently.
PWA: what are the benefits for Google and why Microsoft loves it too
For consumers, that means big business ‘apps’, but also your local restaurant, florist, or car store who just can’t afford to build apps for Android, iOS, or even Windows.
You can expect a lot of PWA news in 2018 from Google and Microsoft. Once Redstone 4 ships this spring, consumers can expect a bunch of new “apps” in the Microsoft Store, which is only a good thing.
For more information on the PWA roadmap, expect Google and Microsoft to talk about it at their I / O and Build conferences in May.
Thanks to Rance P. for the answers to the questions posed in the video!