Does Apple have the Courage to push the web?

One word that stood out after Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement was “Courage”.

As Phil Schiller Chief of Marketing at Apple pointed out at the event, it took Courage to remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone 7 to push for a wireless headphone future.

These kind of changes cause users inconveniences, but Apple has a track record of making these decisions for the long-term good of the technology industry.

Different peaces of technology go in cycles. They have their spring, summer and autumn until they go to the graveyard of technologies. We try to pick things that are in their springs.
Steve Jobs founder of Apple, on removing Flash in favour of HTML5

One of these springs have dawned upon us on the web.

A set of technologies have emerged that allow us to build Progressive Web Apps with similar capabilities as native apps on mobile.

The capabilities are:

  • Available Offline: Service Workers make offline usage possible by caching web app layout and data. It will also speed up loading on returning visits.
  • Push Notification: Just like on native apps, working outside the browser.
  • Enforced Add To Home-screen: Browsers will suggest adding capable web apps to users home screen when used frequently. Great for continued engagement.
  • Splash Screen: To give instant feedback when opening web apps from home screen.
  • Payments: Web Payments API makes it possible to pay with credit cards, GooglePay and other methods without any input when shopping on the web.
  • Device capabilities: This is already implemented to some extent. Gives access to the camera, microphone, accelerometer and more.

Google, Mozilla, Opera and Microsoft are openly implementing these features. Together these features essentially allow us to build native-like web apps.

The benefit is obvious, we can have capable apps without going through the App Store and therefor skip the middle-man. This is where things could get tricky for Apple.

Apple has been pushing hard for the App Store model in past years. It has in-fact become an increasing part of their business. At every keynote they boast about the numbers.

Normal users don’t seem as engaged as Apple. Research shows that the average mobile user downloads, wait for it… zero apps per month. Another research shows a 20% drop at every stage in the App Store.

Nobody says Apple should drop native apps. They serve a big role. However, to embrace Progressive Web Apps will foster creativity and make things better for all of us.

This will take “Courage”.