In 2021, progressive web apps will be the choice of more app developers than ever before. New APIs, absence of gatekeepers, lower development cost, their cross-platform nature, instant updates and the push by Google and Amazon will make them the optimal choice for most situations.
New web APIs
Need to compute something fast? Use WebAssembly. Want live video? Try WebRTC. Two factor auth? Here, use a YubiKey. Each year the interaction between hardware and the web apps is more seamless. The advantage native apps once had is fading away.
Independent app developers will want to avoid gatekeepers. Apple and Google - the platform owners - are increasingly steering apps towards profit for themselves at the expense of end users and app developers.
Both Apple and Google want to squeeze more juice from their app stores and services due to the lack of growth in hardware sales. Small hardware improvements aren’t a good enough reason for customers to open their wallets each year. The new game is selling services. Independent app developers and platform owners are increasingly competing against eachother. Hey, an attempt to improve the email experience, were forced to make significant changes to their app and business due to Apple’s requirements. Apple and Google want apps to exclusively use their payment system for in app purchases to get their 30% cut. The companies are also dictating what content can and cannot be accessible through the apps, even in cases where the apps are merely a medium for communication between their users.
Development cost and hiring
Updating a PWA is a seamless process while releasing a native app update has no shortage of hurdles.
An app vendor has complete control over the distribution of a PWA. They publish new release on their servers, devices load the new code and the process is complete. Distributing an update to a native app is a multi-day endeavour of negotiating with the app store reviewers and convicing them your app doesn’t breach any of their terms. After the update is finally published the users can decide on timing of the update at their own will. Your backend will have to support multiple versions of the app in circulation.
Native app updates have problems which simply don’t exist in the world of PWAs.
PWAs in the wild
- Google Stadia
- Expenses: Expense tracker with Google Sheets as a backend
- Tons of ecommerce apps
- News: Forbes, WAPO…
The list will get longer
We haven’t reached the peak yet. Web browser vendors plan to release more APIs expanding the technological potential of PWAs. PWAs haven’t reached mainstream adoption yet. In years ahead we will see an increase in adoption by both app developers and the end users.