Mozilla Embraces Progressive Web Apps

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