Progressive Web App Definition and Meaning

What is a Progressive Web App?

A Progressive Web App, or PWA for short, is a special form of application for mobile devices. It combines the strengths of native applications and classic websites. There are many advantages to this. However, the term could soon become obsolete.

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a mobile website that has the functions of native applications. The concept was developed by Google in the lead. It has been widely implemented since 2016.

The app runs on all common browsers and works independently of the platform of the end device. So it doesn’t matter whether it’s an iOS or an Android smartphone. It is typically written in HTML5 . However, there are also PWAs that were developed in CSS3 or JavaScript . However, their number is decreasing.

Mobile website, web app or PWA?

Mobile websites were originally just adapted versions of the desktop variants. (In the meantime, this relationship has turned.) This means that they are primarily intended to convey content. The possibilities of a user to interact with the page are very limited.

In the course of time, however, the technical possibilities arose to increasingly expand the range of functions for users. The social networks are a good example of this. Browser games also show how much the possibilities for user interactions have grown.

In the mobile sector, however, such functions were (and are) outsourced. There are downloadable (“native”) apps for this. For example, Facebook or Twitter offer their own apps. Theoretically, the basic functions can also be used via the mobile websites. If the appearance of the app is also imitated and the page has a responsive design, it is a web app. Responsive design means that the application can automatically adapt to the size of the respective device.

In theory, however, much more would be possible. To do this, the boundaries to the rest of the mobile device must be drilled open. For example, it is possible to integrate the camera or use the microphone. If applications strive to use all the possibilities of the target device, they are progressive web apps.

Service workers as the silent heroes in PWAs

A progressive web app is based on small scripts called “service workers”. They are usually invisible to the end user. They ensure that the application works as desired, for example by shortening loading times or providing certain functional sequences. You can also reach beyond the limits of the browser to expand the range of applications of the PWA.

Advantages of a progressive web app

  • no updates needed
  • no downloads necessary
  • no problems when changing platforms
  • optimal use of the resources of the respective device

Disadvantages of a PWA

  • not necessarily the same range of functions depending on the device
  • not every browser supports every PWA
  • Offline functionalities are severely restricted or not available at all
  • potential security risk if the PWA is compromised

What is a Progressive Web App