Twitter Lite is a PWA Win

Posted on May 24, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, iOS, Mobile, Windows 10 with 32 Comments

Twitter Lite is a PWA Win

I’ve been somewhat obsessed by Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) lately, but this is a transition that will take lots of time. That said, one PWA, Twitter Lite, has emerged as a clear winner. And it works very well across platforms.

Interestingly, and not coincidentally, both Microsoft and Google highlighted Twitter Lite at their respective developer shows over the past few weeks. And for good reason: Not only does this PWA provide a truly native app-like experience, but it works incredibly well across platforms.

So well, in fact, that it has now replaced the native Twitter apps I was using on both Windows 10 and Android.

And that is rather incredible when you think about it, especially on Windows 10. This is a mobile web app, designed for small, portrait-oriented screens. But I find that it works well in windowed mode on Windows 10 too. Well enough, in fact, that I will simply keep using it going forward.

This is a big deal for me because I’ve been stuck using an out-of-date and no-longer-supported native app called MetroTwit. Which has become increasingly hard to use as Twitter adds features that will never make it to this client. But because MetroTwit nails the basics so well, and other Twitter clients do not, I’ve had a hard time moving past this app. Yes, I’ve tried them all. Many times.

This is also a big deal for me because I’ve been looking for good PWA solutions with little success. I’ve never found a text editor that meets my admittedly stringent needs, but I did find an OK graphics editor—Pixlr—which works well for what I do.

Anyway, if you want to use Twitter Lite today—on Android or Windows 10—you will do so through Chrome. On Android, load Twitter Lite and then choose Menu > Add to Home Screen. In Windows 10, choose Menu > More Tools > Add to Desktop, and be sure to select “Open as window” for that “nativish” experience.

I do sort of wish that Twitter Lite offered a multi-column view, which could be implemented as you stretch out the window. (And would make this web app truly progressive, when you think about it.) But even in its current form, I’m really liking how this works. And I’d never use Twitter via the standard website in a browser.

We need more apps like this.

Note: Twitter Lite is a bit less enticing on iOS because you must use Safari to save it to your home screen, and doing so does not result in an app-like experience with no browser UI. Come on, Apple. Wake up.


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Comments (33)

33 responses to “Twitter Lite is a PWA Win”

  1. timedrifter

    Very cool, though I took your directions and did the same with Tweetdeck. Works like a charm. Thanks Paul.

  2. Programmatic 410

    If you want "lite" web apps, checkout Hermit on Android.

  3. wolters

    I think it is a great idea. One thing it won't do is show up as an option for SHARING if you don't have the full Twitter app installed. Perhaps that will change soon.

  4. rameshthanikodi

    I initially really liked this, but I found the performance to be lacking on my phone. I also use the system integrations like the Share sheet on Android. You can't share to the PWA app. You can only share from it.

    On Windows 10, it feels like the Twitter UWP app from the store is better designed for tablet/PC use and is also more performant to boot. I also share to Twitter app sometimes using Windows 10's share function. The Twitter UWP app also supports some power user features like Tabs and what not.

    I really want to like PWA apps but it feels like all web apps share a common pitfall of being a victim of inefficient javascript timers causing unresponsiveness.

  5. Cosmin Tătaru

    My search is over for some time now. Here's my cross-platform solution for Twitter :

  6. Tony Barrett

    It does indeed seem that PWA apps are more suited to lightweight, cross platform consumption-type apps, ie nothing too taxing. There's a whole list of such apps that could benefit, but an exponentially larger list that can't or won't. In a way, UWP seems to be Microsoft's take of PWA, but locked in their walled garden.

  7. slbailey1

    Will this work with the Edge browser?

  8. AlexKven

    You say that Apple's Safari doesn't do this well, but isn't the irony here that Steve Jobs originally pitched something like PWAs as an excuse for not allowing third-party native apps?

  9. obarthelemy

    I'm a bit unclear what makes progressive web apps great from a user point of vue ?

    They seem to be a bit lighter than regular apps, but isn't that because devs choose use PWA for their "light" apps ?

    Other than that, how can writing an app in Web stuff instead of System stuff be that much better ? I understand how it can be almost equal. But better per se ? Are we playing buzzword bingo ?

    • lvthunder

      In reply to obarthelemy:

      The advantage is the developer has to write one app instead of one per platform. That makes it easier for a person to switch platforms.

      • obarthelemy

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Oh, OK, the advantage is dev-side then. Another incarnation of "write once run anywhere".

        Does it actually work that well though ? Or do you have to make variants per browser, especially on iOS where true Chrome (or true anything) isn't allowed, just reskins of Safari. And now, in Win10S, only Edge ?

        Are PWAs "cross-platform as long as there's Chrome" (Chrome-platform ? ;-p), or are browsers standard enough that you can indeed only write once (I find that hard to believe, even for simple Web sites, that don't work).

        Edit: also, I've got to assume they don't support platform-specific features, such as widgets in Android ? That could be an issue, I choose some apps specifically for their widgets (everything I want on my home screen: weather, texting, news, mail, to-do, calendar)

    • Chris Lindloff

      In reply to obarthelemy:
      I agree to be honest. PWA work great for apps that do nothing locally but display stuff like twitter. If the apps needs to do any real computing it would be better served to do that locally and only transmit data back and forth to the cloud.

      • Bill Russell

        In reply to Chris Lindloff:

        Even there, you might do real heavy computing on AWS, directed from a web page. The class of needed native applications seems limited to heavy graphics or multimedia production, editing large amounts of locally created A/V data, etc. Native application development itself, which often requires compiling locally. These are things that UWP is too limited to do. I really don't see much practical need for UWP or Chromebook apps (via Android) going forward.

  10. wunderbar

    Tweetdeck is the light.

  11. gregsedwards

    Nice. I've been arguing for years that we would have never seen the rise of apps, if the original iPhone had a decent browser in the first place. Most apps just take up the UX slack for a mobile web browser that can't cut it.

  12. mariusmuntensky

    neah...I need a proper app not a lite web wrapper. pathetic excuse for MS failed UWP. what this does is create a weblink on my desktop...why would I use this on my desktop pc instead of the normal website?? pathetic..really pathetic!

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