2021: The Year of Progressive Web Apps

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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

Most of the device features are now accessible to JavaScript and PWAs.

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.

No gatekeepers

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

Development a PWA is more economical and hiring JavaScript developers is easir than people coding in Swift.

According to the survey by StackOverflow, 5.9% of developers know Swift, the main language used for coding on Apple’s platforms. This number is dwarfed by 67.7% of those who can code in JavaScript. JavaScript developer pool is very large. While hiring any developer is tough, doing so for Swift is even tougher and more expensive. Ubiquity of JavaScript means the are more libraries available for that language. Vast online resources will make your JavaScript developers even more productive at building a PWA. A JavaScript team will be crunching out features faster just because their problems are more likely already solved by an awesome library. Cost advantage of JavaScript also comes from its ability to run on virtually any device. It runs on Kindle, on your TV, phone and the computer.

JavaScript is winning on availability of libraries, talent pool and it’s cross-platform, making it an optimal choice for many apps.

Instant updates

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

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.