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Top 5 things to know about Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps are becoming more and more popular. Tom Merritt lists five things you should know about PWAs.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are starting to get some attention. For instance, Amazon is using it for game streaming service on iOS. PWAs give you the advantages of an app with the freedom of publishing on the web, but they aren’t for everyone or everything. Here are five things to know about Progressive Web Apps.

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  1. They’re more of an idea than a thing. The term was introduced by Google’s Alex Russell in 2015 to apply to app-like web technologies. There’s no single standard for a PWA, but there are some agreed upon things they need.
  2. PWAs need a manifest. This is a JSON file that defines things about the look–like the name of the app, the icon for the home screen, background colors, and whether to show the browser UI or take over full screen.
  3. PWAs need to work offline. This is usually achieved by locally saving JavaScript and CSS for faster load time, though some PWAs save almost everything the app does.
  4. They need something called service workers. Service workers create a layer between the app and the network. They cache new content, synchronize local changes with a remote server, and enables notifications and fast loading.
  5. PWAs need security. These may sound obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing–you should not skip security. PWAs should use HTTPS when it does send data.

There are other things that you may or may not use for your PWA like WebAssembly, Houdini, or WebRTC, but this gives you the basics. There are more and more Progressive Web Apps out there (like the previously mentioned Amazon Luna), but Twitter, Flipkart, and Pinterest also have PWA versions. Be progressive–try a web app.

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Image: iStock/RossHelen