Progressive Web Apps: Eating your Cake

This morning I was having a great breakfast in Café de la Presse and I really felt like giving them a Trip Advisor review. I brought out my phone, ready to write them a good review right there. But when I went to Trip Advisor’s site, even after I blew past the app install banners and logged into their “mobile site,” I found that it wasn’t possible to write a review without downloading their App, which led me to tweet the following:

I’m here in San Francisco to speak at Samsung Developer Conference about progressive web apps so it seemed appropriate. An ex-colleague tweeted a reply that puts this frustrating experience into some context:

Yes! This is exactly the trade-off that Trip Advisor (and others) have decided to make. They want the increased ROI of apps and in order to get it they’re willing to put a barrier to engagement in front of users: stop what you’re doing, go to the app store, download our app, and then start again.

There’s another way.

Progressive web apps, which enable save-to-homescreen with the standard manifest file, off-line operation with Serviceworkers, and push notification with the standard web push notification API have the promise to allow brands like Trip Advisor to have their cake and eat it too. They can get all the benefits of a native app (icon on your home screen, reliable off-line operation, push notifications) and still enable browser-based engagement.

That’s why I’m excited about progressive web apps and that’s what I’ll be speaking about at SDC tomorrow and that’s why I’m co-organizing Web Progressions in London next month. People in the web community are already aware of the progressive web app toolkit and the promise it holds. I’m hoping to start reaching an audience of developers who haven’t heard about these technologies, developers who are rooted in the native app mindset. I hope to speak at more app-centric events this year to get this message out there: there’s a tangible advantage that companies and brands can get by embracing progressive web apps. It’s not about technology or some abstract notion that “the web is better.” It’s about engagement.