The future of Progressive Web Apps
|Richard Harris in HTML5 Wednesday, March 21, 2018|
Progressive Web Apps may have come a long way from their inception, but what's next? Max Lynch, CEO and co-founder of Ionic weighs in.
We chatted with Max to learn more about what he thinks the future of PWA's will look like and how Ionic is making changes to embrace that reality.
What has led to the surge in PWAs?
Lynch: The surge in Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) can largely be attributed to web developers wanting to build web applications for mobile. Many web developers were on the sidelines of the mobile revolution, unable to participate due to an incompatible skillset. With Progressive Web Apps, these developers can apply the same technology they’ve been using for decades to mobile, and the prospects of that are incredibly enticing for web developers.
Additionally, teams want more control over their app development lifecycle. Instead of having to go through gatekeepers to release and update apps, teams want to deploy and update on their own schedule, which Progressive Web Apps allow them to do.
Finally, the app store’s lack of discovery and friction when users visit from a Google search make app store apps risky for businesses. PWAs streamline discovery and lower the time to first experience.
ADM: What made you and your team believe that the web would be the platform to use back in 2012?
Lynch: The web platform is the most widely used and taught application runtime ever created, and we assumed the same thing would happen on mobile as it had on desktop: the web platform would eventually replace apps built with non-portable “native” SKD. The productivity and practical benefits of the web platform are too compelling to bet against.
ADM: How does the codebase of a PWA streamline the process over the codebase of a native app?
Lynch: If you build a pure native app with Apple and Google’s stock languages, then your app simply won’t run on the web and your investment in that app will be stuck on the platform it was built for.
In general, Progressive Web Apps use cross-platform technologies that run on many more devices than the official languages and SDKs for building iOS and Android native apps.
Of course, if you use a hybrid approach like Ionic, you can use the same code for your native app and your Progressive Web App.
ADM: Gartner predicts that PWAs will replace 50 percent of mobile apps by 2020. Do you think that a continued surge in popularity will push this number higher?
Lynch: I believe we’re going to see a complete flip for Business to Employee (B2E) apps being built as PWAs. Most B2E apps have no reason to be built and deployed using the native app toolchain; doing so only adds overhead and slows teams down. Since most of those apps are data-driven business apps, they are perfect candidates for PWAs.
On the consumer side, the data shows that, on net, users aren’t downloading and keeping apps. Many businesses will have no choice if they want to reach and retain users but to lower the barrier to using their app by building a PWA.
Above all, early data from the likes of Twitter and Pinterest shows significant benefits for products released as a PWA, which should further encourage other teams to invest in the platform.
ADM: For those companies that have already implemented PWAs, what results are they seeing?
Lynch: In general, companies that have invested in PWAs are seeing lower bounce rates, much greater engagement and higher revenue.
Pinterest is a great example. They recently introduced a PWA to replace their traditional mobile web experience - a meaningful change since 80 percent of pinners access the service on a mobile device.
Compared to Pinterest’s old mobile web experience, they saw a 44 percent increase in user-generated ad revenue, a 50 percent increase in ad clickthroughs and a 40 percent increase in users spending more than five minutes on the site. Not only that, the PWA outperformed the Pinterest native app in almost every category, including time spent on site.
Similarly, Twitter saw a 65 percent increase in pages per session after unveiling their PWA, called “Twitter Lite,” and a 20 percent decrease in bounce rate compared to traditional mobile web experience.
ADM: What is Ionic doing to push the PWA movement?
Lynch: We want to be the leader in Progressive Web Apps. To get there, we are investing heavily in open source technology to help teams build high-performance PWAs, and we are providing commercial support and solutions for mission critical applications, both in the app store and as PWAs.
On the open source side, Ionic Framework will be positioned as the UI library for building highly-performant PWAs, and we have built new technology like Stencil, a simple but powerful tool for building fast PWAs, by using new web standards like Custom Elements. We announced Stencil last August at the Polymer conference in Copenhagen to great reception and the project is powering the next version of Ionic Framework.
ADM: How do you think PWA preference and adoption will shift in the next few years - among both organizations and consumers?
Lynch: Consumers are used to finding apps in the app store, so there will be a transition period as more users get accustomed to installing apps directly from the web. I think adoption will be driven at first by the need on the enterprise side to build apps to meet demand inside and out, and on the consumer side by those that need lighter weight experiences due to network and device constraints. These two factors will create experience and user familiarity needed to break into the more entrenched app store markets.
About Max Lynch
Max Lynch is the CEO and co-founder of Ionic. Ionic was developed to create a better way for web developers to use their skills to build apps. With 4 million apps and counting developed using Ionic’s framework, Max is focused on scaling and commercializing the technology to streamline app development around the world.
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