Have you heard of a Progressive Web App (PWA)? If not, then it’s time to get seriously educated because they’re fundamentally changing mobile web and have been around for more than three years now. Think of a PWA as an installable web app that brings together what you love about a native mobile app and delivers it on the web. They’re supported by all of the major tech players (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Mozilla, etc.) and major consumer brands (Starbucks, Pinterest, Spotify, etc.) have already taken advantage of PWAs and seen phenomenal results. That’s why I was so excited to have a conversation with one of the engineers that conceptualized PWAs–Google’s Alex Russell.
Lumavate’s VP of Marketing, Stephanie Cox: So I’m really excited to talk to you all about Progressive Web Apps and where the future of web is headed. When I tell people about PWAs, one of the things I usually say is that it’s the best of both native mobile apps and the mobile web coming together. Would you agree?
Google’s Senior Software Engineer, Alex Russell: Sure. Imagine fast forwarding to the end of the story where we come to a place where the web is as successful on mobile as it has been on desktop. We should get to a place where users have all the upsides of the web–it should be safer, faster, you should get an operating runtime, applications shouldn’t be massive. All those things should be continual benefits that the web delivers, but you shouldn’t have to give up all the nice things that you like about native apps to get there.
SC: One thing that’s fascinating to me is that PWAs were kind of a group effort from people at Google, Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla…can you tell me how you all came together to create this concept?
This is how how all of this stuff works–it’s a set of individuals who are looking to the left and looking to the right and trying to build a larger community of folks who have problems and need solutions to work together to do it. And then there’s this big discussion of, are the forums that we build successful for that? Are they open enough? But the key thing is to pin our hopes on is this idea that it’s a combination of people who work on browsers who–we like to say–can ship bits that change the world.
SC: What’s the biggest benefit to doing a PWA as opposed to a mobile-friendly website, or even a native mobile app?
SC: Tell me what you think the future holds for PWAs
AR: I kind of view it as a slow build in terms of what the future holds. We’re going to continue to add these capabilities so there will be an increasing body of applications which previously weren’t possible on the web, and they will be made possible. And then we’ll see, first, if we did a good job exposing them. And that lets developers determine what they ask for next, because we want our “To Do” list to come from the needs the developers express. And then I think it’s kind of inevitable that PWAs will just be in more places that native apps are today. I can go back this idea that technology shouldn’t matter, and it’s really just about delivering the best experience for your service at the lowest cost. I think the Web can compete and win on that basis, to the extent that the Web is not sort of treated prejudicially by operating systems. I’m hoping for a lot more of that.