Progressive Web Apps for Desktop

Support for Progressive Web Apps on desktop has arrived in Chrome OS 67 and can be enabled on other platforms via a flag in Chrome 67 (#enable-desktop-pwas).

For a quick primer on what a Progressive Web App or PWA is and what all the fuss is about please read my blog post from October 2017 which introduces Progressive Web Apps.

Much of the early conversation around Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) focused on mobile, where PWAs have narrowed the gap between a web and native apps. This has been achieved by bringing features such as offline capability, access to device sensors and improved performance to the Web Platform and now it’s time to deliver these same benefits to that other place where many of us spend plenty of our time, the desktop.

When I first blogged about PWAs back in October 2017 I was excited by their potential not only on mobile but on desktop too. At that time Google barely made any mention to PWAs on desktop and instead it was Microsoft who were already demonstrating how they envisaged PWAs being featured in the Microsoft Store and their automated discovery by Bing as it crawled the web. More recently Microsoft have delivered on that promise, with the first batch of PWAs arriving in the Microsoft Store for those on Windows 10 build 1803 (aka Redstone 4).

This is great news that Microsoft is really going all in on PWAs to bring their capabilities to the vast audience of half a billion devices running Windows 10. As web developers this is an exciting time as it lowers the bar for entry into the Microsoft Store and with Microsoft’s example hopefully others such as the Google Play Store and Apple Store will soon follow suit. Although probably best not to hold your breath regarding PWAs arriving in the Apple Store but I live in hope!

It would be quite a revolution to be able to utilise the Web Platform to deliver a native app like experience across mobile and desktop devices from a single codebase in a way that doesn’t require additional dependencies such as Cordova or Electron.

PWAs present a great opportunity for startups and small-to-medium sized businesses who can utilise a PWA to iterate their product faster and serve their customers on whatever device or platform they prefer to use. With PWAs on desktop as we’ve seen on mobile the line between a PWA and native app will blur and become even less perceptible to users.

PWAs are proving to be a welcome driving force for the ongoing progress of the Web Platform and a catalyst for a new level of integration between operating systems and the Web that presents enormous potential to leverage existing skills in web technologies to deliver a new wave of apps and experiences for users.

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Michael Walsh by Michael Walsh