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Is PWA really the next thing?

Now that Magento has announced Magento PWA Studio to be upcoming, more or less simultaneously with the release of Magento 2.3 (which focuses heavily on making PWAs possible in the first place), the market is on the move. Is PWA really going to be the next thing? What is it all about?

PWA in a nutshell

To explain in a nutshell: PWA (Progressive Web Apps) technology allows a webpage to transform itself to become more app-like: It can add itself to the dashboard screen of mobile devices, it is able to deal with push notifications and most importantly, it allows the webpage to be used offline as well.

Native apps versus web apps

When we talk about apps, we often refer to native apps: Small applications are written specifically for either Android and iOS, that are installed on a mobile device. A native app only becomes useful once a user installs that app manually on his or her phone - which is an additional step a lot of users don't take.

Fighting for disk space

On top of this, such an app costs quite a lot of disk space. While there are some half-breed solutions out there - like Titanium and PhoneGap - which allowed you to build an HTML5/JS app and then turn it into a native app. However, these solutions only allow for less development. They still are clumsy to work with from a user perspective.

I receive every week or so a notice that my apps can't update themselves because of a lack of disk space. For instance, my Facebook app uses about 500Mb of space. Am I really keen to keep all of the updates my friends & family have been wasting? No, it is just showing that the app is really inefficient.

Cutting away the overhead

The PWA approach allows for this to change. Native apps will be swapped out with web apps, that gradually become more intelligent, once the browsers APIs advance. For instance, certain resources from the phone can already be shared (sound, notifications).

But the major win is that nobody needs to install a huge app anymore to only use 1% of its capacity: You simply browse through the app and download the needed features once you encounter them. Next, the web app itself can keep those resources offline, or re-download only once a new notification tells it to update itself.

Apple is in as well

For a long time, PWA was on the horizon. But critics were staying away because it seemed few browser manufacturers were in on it. However, since the news came out that new Safari builds would introduce PWA functionality gradually, it seems Apple has also embraced PWA and nothing is stopping it from becoming the new standard.

The next big thing with Magento

PWA is going to be the next main thing. Forget about Magento Mobile, forget about Magento Professional Edition, forget about X-Commerce: Those projects were not a huge success for Magento. However, PWA is going to change the world sooner or later. It is going to be the new focus for handling applications on phones, it is going to reshape the app and it is going to make JavaScript frameworks like React vital for the next upcoming years.

Yireo focus on PWA

This is why we are also changing gear. In March, we are putting together a developer conference - Reacticon for eager Magento developers that want to get ready ahead of the crowd. In April and May, we are extending our Magento courses with new trainings focused on JavaScript in general (ES6, promises, prototypical chain, transpiling) and ReactJS. And we are also going to work together with Deity to help developers embrace their new React-based platform.

These are exciting times. And we'll promise you: PWA is a technology here to stay, so make sure you get yourself informed before it is too late!

Written by Jisse Reitsma op 7 February 2018

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