As Google I/O continues marching forward, we’re watching session after session to find nuggets of new features coming to Chrome and Chrome OS. One of those new features coming soon is a new way users will be notified when a PWA (progressive web app) is available from any given URL.
For many users across the web, whether or not a web service offers itself up as a proper PWA is still a bit of a veiled mystery. PWAs, by their nature, can run just fine in a browser tab and can easily be mistaken for “just a website.” Don’t be fooled, however, as PWAs have a much more full-featured skill set than simple web pages. Things like notifications, background processes, and 3D graphics rendering are just a few of those tricks and, when used properly, can convert a standard web experience into something we’re more accustomed to seeing in native apps.
Right now, the only way to really know if you are dealing with a PWA when viewing content on the web is to click the 3-dot menu and see if you have an option for installing the PWA you may be using at the moment. For instance, if you head over to g.co/io/live, you can hit the install prompt in the Chrome menu and you’ll see the PWA installed instantly. Once installed, it will run like any other app in its own window and can also be seen in your app tray.
In Chrome 76, however, we’ll be seeing a fresh new way for websites to notify users that the site they are on is actually a PWA. In the I/O demonstration, they showed what users can expect to see when they are browsing a page that is technically a PWA. It is a subtle nudge up in the URL bar that quickly notifies users that an installable PWA is available and ready if desired. Better than a pop up or slide in, this quick notification is enough to help users see the install but also not so large that it crowds the browsing experience.
This new feature will be rolling out to all platforms (Chrome OS, MacOS, Windows and Linux) with Chrome 76 in late July if everything stays on course between now and then. We’ve already taken it for a test drive in Chrome OS 76 and it works just as advertised.
For me, the more avenues for PWA development we get, the better. For many apps and app developers, using PWAs and their single-codebase setup is a huge win for app deployment and availability across the board. As developers continue taking advantage of the great new tools at their disposal, I’m excited to see what new experiences hit the web and get delivered to users without need of app stores. The easier we make discovery of these great web experiences, the more development we’ll see in the future.