Apart from having a cool sounding name, what are the progressive web applications? They are kind of the next step in the internet space. At first, It was all about the web sites that we, the users, had to visit from our computers. Later the mobile applications, also known as apps for our phones got crazily popular. Now the progressive web applications are making their way to popularity. A hybrid between the two – websites that look and feel like mobile applications.
Key characteristics of the Progressive Web Applications
- Progressive – to be able to work on any browser, no matter the user choice. Also to work on phones, tablets, and computers.
- Responsive – like any modern web site, a PWA should adjust to the screen of the user. A typical requirement for a modern web site.
- Connectivity independent – The PWAs should be available offline too. Just like you can use many apps of Google Chrome OS offline.
- App-like – The user should not feel the difference between navigating through a PWA or a traditional app.
- Fresh – In contrast to the traditional apps that you should install and update frequently, the PWAs are hosted online and the provider updates them there. All the users have access to the latest version always.
- Safe – Use typical secure measures like HTTPS for better protection of the users’ data.
- Discoverable – W3C organization supports their discoverability in the search engines, as “applications”.
- Re-engageable – To have features like push notifications.
- Installable – Users to be able to install the apps and keep them on their device.
- Linkable – Just like a web site, users can share the PWA with a link.
Not all of the brands 100% agree on these characteristics, but with all of them together, users can get a really good product that competes with the modern web sites and apps.
Who does PWAs?
Constantly, there are new brands that get involved. Some of the initial plays are Microsoft, who started it to create apps that run on mobile and computers; Google that offers a version of Google Maps as PWA, Starbucks, Wikipedia, Uber, Tinder, Instagram, Pinterest, Lyft, Twitter and more.
Pros and Cons of PWAs
It is a good and cheap solution for many brands. Using PWAs, they can provide services to many users without a high cost of tailoring the apps to different platforms and something very important – no commissions from the app shops. The app shops like Play Store and Apple App Store charge a commission for every purchase of an app through their store and in-app purchases too. In their essence the PWAs are websites and even if they are inside an app store, they are not hosted in it.
Updating PWAs is instant to all of the users at the same time. No need to update through an app store.
Brands can collect more information from the users. The app stores have many restrictions that web sites don’t have.
One of the biggest disadvantages is the lack of native API support. Depending on the platform, users may not be able to use features like camera, gyroscope and more.
Not every browser supports PWAs. In the future there will be more support, but currently it is limited.
PWAs are very exciting and can serve better than the traditional combination of a web site and a separate app. Yes, it is still early to see wide adoption, but within a few years that will definitely change.