We’ve been excited to see the recent, rapid growth of PWAs in the past few months and, as this trend continues, the continuing expansion of PWAs in the Google Play Store. Google has had methods for developers to wrap their PWAs for insertion in the Play Store prior to now, but those methods still required the app to be compiled via the Android Studio SDK to work properly. Microsoft has also been working on their developer tools for PWAs and, up until now, the two didn’t really work together.
PWAs are wonderful in the fact that, technically, you don’t need an app store to find them and install them on your device. They are web-driven and completely agnostic of your operating system. The problem with that is no one really knows exactly where to find them or which ones to trust when or if they do. Fortunately, there are app stores that already exist and are already part of the user flow for most. Between Windows and Android, you have the Microsoft Store and the Google Play Store. These app stores are trusted sources where PWAs can be delivered and found, assuming they meet the criteria for entry.
Up to this point, the process for compiling your PWA to live in either these stores has been different. While the core PWA itself is perfectly happy living on the web and being installable from there, placing it in a wrapper that complies with the app store of the developer’s choosing is a bit more involved. As it stands, there are two paths for this out there between Microsoft and Google:
PWABuilder.com is Microsoft’s open source developer tool that helps you build high quality PWAs and publish them in app stores.
Bubblewrap is Google’s command line utility and library to generate and sign Google Play Store packages from Progressive Web Apps.via Medium
Google and Microsoft are teaming up
This week, Google and Microsoft are teaming up to make these processes more seamless for developers and it could result in a strong increase in PWAs showing up in the Google Play Store.
Web shortcuts support: PWAs packaged for Google Play via PWABuilder will now support the new web shortcuts standard (quick actions on long-press from the home screen on Android).
Advanced Android features & customization: PWABuilder now supports the full range of trusted web activity options that makes your PWA shine on Android devices. From PWABuilder, you can customize the appearance of the Android status bar and nav bar in your PWA, customize your Android splash screen, change your launcher name, use an existing signing key, utilize deeper push notification support, configure your package’s ID and versioning, fallback behavior and more.
All of this was a result of the collaboration between Google and Microsoft, with your PWAs reaping the benefit.via Medium
It seems that Microsoft’s PWA Builder will now make use of Google’s Bubblewrap to allow developers to build Google Play Store-ready applications from the same tool that they would use to build for Windows. This is important because it breaks down a development barrier that really shouldn’t exist with PWAs. We can’t stress enough that the benefit of a PWA is a single code base that works well on multiple operating systems. This allows for development to happen on one platform and for resources to remain focused at all times.
Sure, app stores are great for delivery and discovery, but the fact that they re-introduce division takes away from the benefits wrought by choosing a PWA versus a native application. With collaborations like we’re seeing between Google and Microsoft here, it feels like we’re getting back to PWAs being great for delivering one app via multiple platforms. Developers should be able to use the tools they desire to build their PWA and not be forced to adopt platform-specific tools in order to deliver a great experience. With PWAs that exist simply on the web, that is the promise. Now that we have software giants working together, it feels like we’re moving in the right direction from a discovery and delivery aspect to deliver that same promise in the existing, trusted app stores we all already use.