PWA! The Alternate for Mobile App

In the era of the internet and mobile, people tend to download apps for every single need. Have you ever noticed how many apps we have installed on our mobile phones? Everything serves a different purpose. Generally, people are not aware of installable web apps. 

The average user is not concerned about the technical approach behind the PWA. The installable web apps are the future version of the app experience for the user. Now, it is about how they fit into the larger ecosystem of the web shortly. Some users may be familiar with bookmarking websites on a phone or tablet by adding them to the home screen. But in PWA, they have some instructions to the browser, which tells the device that they are installable. That means they are full screen, and they stay in your open apps separate from the browser.

In 2015, British freelance designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell coined the terminology “progressive web apps”. This term is used to describe apps taking advantage of the new features supported by modern browsers, including service workers and web app manifests, that let users upgrade web apps to “progressive web applications” in their native operating system(OS). Progressive web apps are an enhancement of existing web technology. As such, they do not require separate bundling or distribution. Publication of a progressive web app is as it would be for any other web page. PWAs work in any browser, but “app-like” features such as being independent of connectivity, installing to the home screen and push messaging depend on browser support. As of April 2018, those features are supported to varying degrees by the Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari browsers, but more browsers may support the features needed in the future.

In a follow-up post, The technical baseline criteria dictated by Russell for a site to be considered a progressive web app by browsers is detailed.

  • Originate from a secure origin. Served over TLS and green padlock displays (no active mixed content). 
  • Load while offline (even if only a custom offline page). By implication, this means that progressive web apps require service workers. 
  • Reference a web app manifest with at least the four mandatory properties: name, short_name, start_url, and display (standalone or full screen).
  • An icon, at least 144×144 large in png format

It is now easier than ever to create web applications using hybrid frameworks. But these frameworks will never be as powerful as native applications that connect right into the device OS. So what makes PWA more attractive? 

There is no one main answer for this. But there are many factors: It is easier to create PWA and web apps using one stack(HTML/CSS/JS). 

PWA does not require an app store submission. Web Apps run in all browsers of all devices ranging from desktops to smartphones. It is much simpler to create a simple PWA for lifestyle stores rather than building a separate app for Android and iOS. PWA will become the future of apps as mobile browsers now support geolocation, vibration, microphone access, and many upcoming specs.

It is a go-to solution for websites that mainly serve content to their visitors, like news agencies, publishers, etc. Even though smartphone gets popular day by day, the increasing app count frustrates the user. In this case, PWAs serve the purpose more appealingly. It ultimately reduces the maintenance cost and only a fraction of internal storage usage than the actual apps. As the popularity of PWA increases, many APIs are developed for PWA to create a more native app feel for the users.