Can anyone derail the Progressive Web Apps train?
"While I’m glad Apple is embracing open web technologies, I’m not convinced about its commitment to PWAs."
You may have heard of web apps or native apps, but have you heard of progressive web apps (PWAs)? A PWA is a web application that uses modern web technologies to deliver a native app-like experience. In theory, it’s responsive, loads fast even on low-quality networks, safe, and always up to date.
The concept of PWAs isn’t new, its virtues have been extolled extensively for the past two years. But its adoption hasn’t taken off. The fact that native apps have served us well is a factor. Another factor is self-perpetuated ignorance from developers. Many are unaware that PWAs can do some of the same things that make native apps so desirable, such as push notifications, full-screen mode, and hardware-accelerated graphics.
Then again, app developers also need to work within the constraints of the platform that they’ve invested time and money into. That’s another way of saying that platform makers’ receptiveness to PWAs will be key to its progress. Google has long embraced PWAs and has added support for it in Chrome on Android, and now in Chrome OS (in beta). Microsoft is also going full steam ahead to integrate this technology into Windows 10 and its Edge browser. It’s not hard to see Google’s and Microsoft’s motivations. The Mountain View company’s business is all about the web; the Redmond company has an abysmal app store.
Where does this leave Apple then? Some people criticize Apple for hurting the future of the web by dragging its foot with PWAs. Apple has made moves to give us hope that it’d be adopting PWAs across its mobile and desktop platforms. Work on key PWA features such as Web App Manifest, Service Worker, and Cache API has begun on Safari/WebKit.
But call me a skeptic. While I’m glad Apple is embracing open web technologies, I’m not convinced about its commitment to PWAs. If PWAs offer the same user experience regardless of device, why would you buy an iPhone or a MacBook Pro? PWAs don’t have to rely on an app store, and Apple’s App Store has been a huge financial success for both the company and its developers. In short, I don’t see how Apple is chill with PWAs.
Will the PWAs movement fail if Apple doesn’t lend it its full support? We shall see.
By Ng Chong Seng Illustration Anthony Gonzales