PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) have come a long way in the last few years. From basic websites in a box to fully-functioning applications delivered via the open web, a well-built PWA can take the place of a standard, native application for a lot of services. After all, if a web app can access your camera, storage, and notifications, there’s little a PWA cannot do when compared with a native app.
With a wide-open distribution chain (the open web), a PWA is a one-app-for-all-systems solution for app makers and these web-based applications can, for many developers, deliver all the same experiences for end users that a native application can. And, of late, the quality of these app experiences is getting so good that certain services are choosing to not only place their PWA in the Google Play Store: they are setting up the PWA as the default option for some operating systems.
Alerted by a reader, we were made aware that the Twitter app in the Google Play Store defaults to an install of the Twitter PWA when you download the app on your Chromebook. Sure, there has always been the option to go to twitter.com and install the PWA from there, but this is the first time we’re seeing a native Android app being replaced with the PWA right from the Play Store install. There’s no alert or option to choose which app you’d prefer. The Play Store simply delivers the PWA when you click install.
Not only is this done by default, from what we can tell, there is no option to even download and use the Android APK on a Chromebook at this point. For Twitter, that is actually not bad news. The Twitter website/PWA has become one of the best examples of a web-based application available today, so it isn’t odd to see Twitter make this move. As a matter of fact, the PWA is so good that I actually replaced the Android app on my phone with the PWA a few months ago and haven’t looked back.
We’ve looked around a bit for more examples of this, but have yet to find one just yet. Most times, if Google wants Chromebook users to default to the web version of a service, they simple make the app incompatible with Chromebooks and leave users to figure it all out on their own. I, for one, much prefer the method being used by Twitter. The PWA is far better on a Chromebook than the native Android app, it is great in desktop or tablet mode, and it is the best way to enjoy Twitter on a Chromebook. Instead of marking the phone app (Android APK) as incompatible with Chrome OS, they are simply offering up the much better PWA instead.
As end users, most of us won’t really notice as long as the app works in all the ways we expect. Can I see my feed, share content and get notifications? As long as the answer is yes, then I’m perfectly fine with using the app that does this in the best way possible on the device I’m using. I’m not here to posture that PWAs can replace all native apps, but I am bullish on the idea that they can replace many of them. With a singular delivery mechanism, developers can focus all their efforts on one app for everyone instead of multiple version for multiple operating systems. In the end, that will make for better services with less disparity between them, and that’s a win all around. I hope others follow in Twitter’s footsteps and we start seeing more of this on not just Chrome OS, but on Android, iOS, iPad OS, Windows and MacOS as time moves on.