Mozilla Embraces Progressive Web Apps

Posted on October 24, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Dev, Mobile, Android with 17 Comments

Slowly waking up to the next great apps platform, Mozilla today said that it will embrace Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), starting on Android.

“Progressive Web Apps (PWA) [is] an umbrella term for a new set of standardized browser technologies that combine the low-friction nature of the web with the reliability and capabilities we typically associate with native apps,” Mozilla’s Andreas Bovens explains. “PWAs are gaining ground, with more and more top online services sharing their success stories, and with browser support increasing.”

As Mozilla notes, PWAs were spearheaded by Google, which primarily sees them as a mobile apps opportunity. But Microsoft has, of course, also embraced PWAs and will make them an integral part of Windows 10 beginning with the Redstone 4 next spring.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mozilla is taking a mobile-centric approach to PWAs. After all, that’s where the numbers are.

“Service Workers and Push, two of the technologies powering PWAs shipped last year in Firefox 44, and Mozillian Marcos Caceres has been heading up the Web App Manifest spec work,” he writes. “Continuing our commitment to making PWAs a top experience on mobile, we’re pleased to announce that Firefox 58 for Android will ship with Web App Manifest support, in the form of ‘Add to Home screen’ functionality.”

Add to Home screen works much like it does today in Chrome for Android when you arrive at a PWA on the web: A badge appears, allowing you to add that PWA to your home screen. The resulting app will appear as a standalone item in the app switcher—e.g. as an app and not as a browser tab—and Firefox will also support simple “Add Page Shortcut” functionality so you can pin non-PWAs to the home screen too. (This is all Safari on iOS does.)

Mozilla says it will add more support for PWAs in the future, including background sync support, web payments, and web sharing. I’m hoping they support this functionality on the desktop, though I suspect Microsoft’s entry in Windows 10 will make such a move mute. Speaking of which, I just spoke to the folks working on PWAs at Microsoft and will have a write-up soon.

PWAs are a game-changer. It’s nice to see Mozilla take this step towards the future.


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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Mozilla Embraces Progressive Web Apps”

  1. prjman

    My opinion: PWA's will act to help MS with the app gap. The major apps will all go PWA, making them compatible with any platform that has a browser. It will be good for everyone.

    • Simard57

      In reply to prjman:

      this is why I find it curious google supports PWAs as they do. Their platform is the leading platform so it will diminish their lead it would seem. There has to be more to their rationale because big companies are rarely noble in their decisions.

      • Mike Francis

        In reply to Simard57:

        Google is spearheading this as they are the main driver behind the standards and coined the phrase 'progressive web apps'. PWAs have the potential to replace traditional apps. Google is driving to reduce the functionality gap between native and web and provide support for user engagement only available in native now. Great story for ISVs - but a threat to app stores. Which could be why Apple is the laggard in the PWA game (See Safari support for PWA standards.) Google 'wants the web to work better' - PWAs extend the value proposition of the web. That’s not “altruism”—when people use the Web, Google profits.

    • BoItmanLives

      In reply to prjman: My opinion: PWA's will act to help MS with the app gap. 

      App gap for what? Devices they're no longer selling? Lol.

      The app gap was only a symptom of Microsoft's deeply flawed mobile problems, not the root cause. And the problems were many.

    • Hassan Timité

      In reply to prjman:

      Yep, if Microsoft offer a better experience through Edge than other platform. Otherwises, it would change nothing !

    • skane2600

      In reply to prjman:

      We'll have to see if all the major apps change to PWA, but there's no magic bullet that makes it easy to support the same functionality on multiple platforms whether they have a browser or not. Even browsers have incompatibility issues.

  2. Kerry Bright

    This is perfect. I was able to add Bookmark OS to my home screen

  3. bdollerup

    Hi Paul, I'm sure you meant to write "moot", not "mute" in the second to last paragraph.

  4. anchovylover

    So what does the emergence of PWA mean for the Store? Will developers still build UWA?

    • Brandonlpierce

      In reply to anchovylover:

      I don't know that UWA will ever going to be huge but UWA + PWA could make the platform robust. If PWAs could go in the store that could be a heck of a win, I think. My big fear (and expectation) is that MS would nerf this by making the PWAs in the store limited to Edge.

      If anybody more knowledgeable is reading this what are your thoughts?

  5. Bats

    LOL..this is so weird. Progressive Web Apps was like yesterday's news and big named tech companies are finally catching on? With Microsoft, I am not surprised. Microsoft's attempts to change how people compute in the modern era has failed. It's failed because their way involves alot of complexit that no one wants to deal with. However, with Mozilla, I am surprised...just a little bit. I used to use Firefox, but I don't anymore. So, I am not familiar with any of their technologies at all. 

  6. Brandonlpierce

    I have yet to find any PWAs that I use as app replacements but as more get on board this could be huge. I am also a big FF user so this makes me happy.

  7. skane2600

    Just another over-hyped approach that won't live up to its promises.