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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!