June 07, 2016
From nczonline.net, with love.

Progressive Web Apps

Hi everyone,

Unless you've been offline for several months, you've probably heard of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). Google I/O had multiple presentations on the topic and Google's small army of evangelists and Chrome developers have been hyping it for months on end. In their minds, PWAs are the way that the web finally competes on an even ground with native (mobile) apps through the use of service workers, app manifests, and more. The end result: an "installable" web application that looks more or less like a native app.

Of course, not everyone is happy with how PWAs are evolving. There are still some rough edges, such as the hiding of URLs from end users and heuristically showing install banners for PWAs. And some are concerned that moving closer to native could move us away from what makes the web great. However, we've been informed that everything is still in the early stages and incremental improvements are coming.

I know many of the folks working on the PWA infrastructure for Chrome, and have a great deal of respect for them. I do think, however, that the lack of communication around their intentions and longer-term plans, coupled with intense marketing, have led to a lot of confusion amongst developers. We're quickly getting back to the point where people are creating web applications that only work correctly in Chrome, and only with a bunch of JavaScript during load. That's not "progressive."

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about PWAs. It's nice that we can actually create web applications that can compete with native apps on graphics, performance, and user experience. However, I'd urge you to remember the word "progressive," which means that you start with something that works for everybody and then layer on additional functionality so developers can take advantage of new technologies available in some browsers.

"Works best in Chrome" is fine to say, but you never want to say "Works only in Chrome." There are plenty of people using other browsers out there, so don't forget to test cross-browser and keep the web progressive.

Be well.

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