For a few years now, PWAs have made and continue to make noise in the web world. They promise a web experience similar to that of native mobile applications, cross-platform compatibility while being fast and secure.
Simple media stunt or real technological breakthrough, we will demystify PWAs in a series of two articles. In the first article that you are about to read, we will define what a PWA is and what characterizes it, then in a second step we will focus on the strengths and limitations of the latter.
What is a PWA?
Behind this three-letter acronym is the words “Progressive Web App”. A PWA (progressive web application in French) is neither more nor less than a website to which certain superpowers have been added in order to bridge the gap with its cousins, the native applications.
As a reminder, a web application is an application hosted on a server. It is easily accessed through our favorite web browser. No installation is necessary unlike native applications which need to be downloaded from an application store (Play Store for Android, App Store for iOS, AppGallery for Huawei, etc.)
Mobile internet use has exploded in recent years, surpassing that of computer use in 2016. The web is trying to catch up with native applications with new standards.
Although PWAs have been on the rise lately, the term is not new and was proposed by Google in 2015.
PWAs offer a new way to deliver accessible mobile app experiences on the web. To do this they use the latest capabilities of recent internet browsers. PWAs are therefore not a new technology per se but more a concept of web application development.
In order to harmonize the concept of PWA, Google has put in place a list of characteristics that web applications must meet in order to be labeled PWA.
Progressive web applications must work on any device with a web browser, adapting to all screen formats (desktop, tablet, phone, watch, etc.) but also to the functionalities available on the latter. Not all browsers support the latest web APIs (push notification, camera, etc.). We therefore gradually use the new features by providing a fallback for browsers that do not support them.
It is necessary to secure the communication between the application and the web server that hosts it. In order to avoid any “man-in-the-middle” type attack, the use of the HTTPS protocol is imperative.
Just like native mobile applications, a PWA can be added to the home screen of the phone, tablet or computer, in order to allow easy reuse.
Like native applications, a PWA offers an immersive experience: Icon on the home screen, splashscreen (launch screen), full screen, use of APIs allowing access to the device’s sensors (camera, vibrator , geolocation, etc.), re-engagement facilitated by sending push notifications.
Thanks to the cache management by the “Services Workers”, the PWA can operate in areas of poor connectivity or completely without a network. The launch of the mobile app development agency California from the home screen can be instantaneous.
Shareable and discoverable
A PWA can be accessed simply through a URL like a website. It is therefore very easy to share the latter via a simple web link, a QRCode… In addition, they can be referenced by the various search engines like a classic website in order to increase traffic to it.
Thanks to these different characteristics, PWAs do not have to be ashamed of native applications on tablets, phones and computers. They even have significant advantages over the latter that we will see in the next article.