Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) – browser-based applications that take on some performance aspects of native applications — are expected to break out this year, as Apple will begin to ship core features of PWA in its WebKit web browser engine.
PWA has been a drum Google has beaten — mostly as a solo act — since 2015, and even though it has become a web standard, that has not been enough momentum to convince developers to use it. “But with Apple in the game, developers will get off the sidelines,” said Todd Anglin, vice president of product and developer relations at Progress.
Progress Web Apps is a term that represents different specifications advancing independently but collectively, Anglin said. Two of the key technologies behind PWAs are Service Workers and Web App Manifest. Service Workers give developers the ability to manually manage the caching of assets and control the experience when there is no network connectivity, Anglin explained. The Web App Manifest allows users to give the web app metadata describing the app – “things that you’d need for an app store,” Anglin said – so the browsers can give users the choice to install the web app on their home screen.
The point of PWAs is to create an experience that works regardless of network connectivity. “HTLM5 was the first big wave of new APIs, and now PWA is the next wave of pushing the web forward,” Anglin said. He said other specifications, such as web payments and push notifications, are also in the works for PWAs.
Although PWAs can present a native-like experience on mobile devices, Anglin said the industry should move the web-versus-native debate away from PWAs replacing mobile apps. “There are a lot of voices hailing PWA as a replacement for mobile apps, because it’s the fastest way to get people into that content. The web will eventually be able to do everything, but people need to ship apps today. They can’t wait for ‘forever’ processes to catch up,” he said.
Anglin did say the Service Workers API can be very daunting, as it is quite complex. But several software companies are working to deliver frameworks that will handle a lot of that connectivity for developers, he said.
Progress is working with the Angular team at Google to have NativeScript be a part of Angular. “We’re working through the prototype of that integration,” Anglin said.