Earlier this month, the Chrome Developers held a virtual summit called web.dev LIVE over the course of 3 days that set out to deliver updates and guidance to web developers across the globe regarding all the new features Chrome will have moving forward. For common users, it isn’t exactly a simple conference to attend and consume. These are developers talking to developers, after all, so there is a ton of technical speak and jargon that goes on and makes it a tad difficult to sort through.
I did manage to take in the entire session on PWAs, however, and much of what was discussed was very interesting. We talked about one of the interesting pieces from this session just last week that tackled the breakthrough move from Google to include PWAs in the Play Store for Chromebooks in place of their native counterparts. That effort should pick up steam towards the end of 2020 as it comes out of early access and moves into general availability.
Chrome PWA file type handling is coming
Another part of this session that was interesting was the mention of file type handling for PWAs in the near future. You may be curious as to what file type handling refers to, so here’s a quick run down. When you double-click on a file, the operating system will decide for you what app to open to handle that file. This default can be changed, obviously, but you can only choose apps that are set up to handle that particular file type. Currently, PWAs aren’t on that list of apps in consideration. When file type handling is added later in 2020, however, they will be.
So, if you have a PWA like Squoosh that you use on a daily basis and would like for it to be the default app to open JPG files, you’ll be able to simply set Squoosh as the default action for opening those types of files. This is one of those simple features we all take for granted on a daily basis, but PWAs need to be in this mix in order to not feel like second-class citizens. With proper file type handling, immersive mode, notification support, and local file access, PWAs will begin seeing all the same benefits as their native counterparts and can continue the march to being more prevelant for users across the board.
We’re seeing massive momentum behind support for PWAs and their functionality is increasing by the day. I’d bet that by the end of 2020, we’ll see far more PWAs in use than we’ve ever seen before and 2021 could very likely explode with more support from developers. As the original champion of web apps, I’d love to see Apple take a bigger step towards full-blown PWA support across all systems. I know they make a ton of cash from their app store, but they have slowly been coming around on web apps of late and they could make a similar move to Google in this regard and begin delivering PWAs via the App Store on iOS and MacOS in the future. Giving developers the resources they need to build great apps is key to keeping progress moving, and PWAs are core to this effort. One code base for multiple systems will only make for better overall app experiences as PWAs come into their own, and I’m very much looking forward to more of it in the coming months.