Five Reasons Progressive Web Apps will Eat the Web / by Kevin Oleary

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If you haven’t heard the term ‘Progressive Web App” you’ll soon be hearing it a lot. Though the term is being used by different people to mean slightly different things, here are the basic characteristics.

  • ‘Progressive’ means they use lowest common denominator technology to function under harsh conditions, on older devices, or offline when there's low bandwidth or connectivity.

  • 'Web' means they are served over https and use standard web technology (HTML5, CSS3, Javascript), not native app code like Objective C, or Swift.

  • ‘Apps' means they don't just display content, like websites, they perform tasks, like creating a to-do list or filing your tax return.

Here’s why I believe this combination of features makes Progressive Web Apps a virtually unstoppable force.

1. No barrier to user entry

One of the lasting usability problems in native App ecosystems is the friction of app installation. Even at it's best, finding and downloading an app still takes time and mental effort, which translates into lower app adoption rates across the board. Progressive Web Apps load immediately, like a website, and then offer the immediacy of an app with icon on your home screen.

2. Develop once, publish everywhere

Worst case you are actually writing code per-platform, but even with cross-platform dev tools that compile down to native code, you still have to maintain and debug multiple codebases. You can't beat the simplicity of a single development workflow.

3. Tear down the garden walls

Users don't have to wait or worry if an app will be released for their device”. Releasing once is releasing for all devices and all users.

4. Ride the javascript wave

It’s clear that Javascript is a juggernaut of Development activity and it shows no sign of slowing down. It ate the open web, and jumped the tracks to the server-side with Node.js and it's package manager, NPM (see below) and is now poised to consume the native app world as well. Progressive Web Apps are standing on the shoulders of that ecosystem.

 

 Five year growth of downloads from NPM. Source: https://www.npmjs.com/npm/state-of-javascript-frameworks-2017-part-1

Five year growth of downloads from NPM. Source: https://www.npmjs.com/npm/state-of-javascript-frameworks-2017-part-1

5. Everything users expect from a native app

Progressive Web Apps can: authenticate users in the background, store user data on the device, work offline, control the phone, camera, etc. While the quality of the experience is not yet *exactly* equivalent to native, it will be very soon.

I don't think it's an overstatement to predict that this trend will spawn a new "universal" app ecosystem that changes everything about how we use our devices. If you are developing for the web right now, this is the place to be.