Microsoft is bringing Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to Windows 10 and Edge browser. PWAs aren't something all new for the Redmond company as their support was announced at Microsoft Edge Web Summit in September last year. However, it is now clear that similar to Google's take, which was recently followed by Mozilla, the Windows maker is now bringing PWAs to the mainstream. The recent Windows Insider Program builds of Windows 10 started supporting PWAs, while the next public Windows release is expected to begin listing PWAs directly in the Microsoft Store.
PWAs aren't native apps but are Web apps designed to offer an experience similar to a native app. This means you can get notifications or interact with various Web-powered features, without installing any app package on your system. Companies such as Flipkart, MagicBricks, Housing.com, and Goibibo have their PWA versions available right now.
In a blog post, Microsoft plainly defines its roadmap to bring PWAs to Microsoft Store, which is the renamed version of the Windows Store. Microsoft engineers are beginning some experiments with crawling and indexing quality PWAs from the Web over the coming weeks to list them in the Microsoft Store. Additionally, developers will be provided with the option to submit their own PWAs for inclusion in the Microsoft Store.
Unlike Electron apps that are based on native OS-dependent code, a PWA app will be packaged as an AppX in Windows 10 and will run in its own sandboxed container. Developers can use Microsoft's free PWA Builder tool to start developing their native PWAs right from the data available on their sites. The proprietary tool mainly helps to generate a manifest file, build a Service Worker, and then directly publish a PWA in the Microsoft Store.
Support for Service Workers has been a part of Microsoft Edge since December 2017, though limited to Windows Insiders. However, there are plans to enable Service Worker and various technologies to enable features such as push notifications through PWAs with the release of EdgeHTML17 on stable Windows 10 builds in the coming future.
In the meantime, Microsoft is aiming to bring support for accessing PWAs right from its Edge browser. The engineering team at Microsoft has apparently been using the Bing Crawler to identify PWAs on the Web for nearly a year. Further, it already reviewed nearly 1.5 million candidates through which a "small initial set" of PWAs have been identified that will be indexed for Windows 10 users to test the experience over the coming weeks.
"Over the coming months, we'll be ramping up our automatic indexing in the Microsoft Store from a few initial candidates to a broader sample. Throughout this process, we'll continue to vet our quality measures for PWAs, to make sure we're providing a valuable, trustworthy, and delightful experience to our mutual customers on Windows devices," the Microsoft team, comprises engineers Kyle Pflug, Kirupa Chinnathambi, Aaron Gustafson, and Iqbal Shahid, said in the blog post.
The arrival of PWAs on Windows 10 of course does not mean that Microsoft is ditching its Universal Windows Platform (UWP). The software giant still insists developers wishing to build a fully-tailored experience should opt for UWP. Having said that, PWAs are key solutions for the ones who want to make their apps available on multiple platforms including the Web. Microsoft is also emphasising that for developers who are planning a "brand-new product" with features that are available on the Web and in a cost-effective manner, PWAs are the best-suited option.
Interestingly, Microsoft is already building a PWA version of Microsoft Teams that will soon debut on Windows Store. You can use Google Chrome on your Windows 10-based system to experience PWAs ahead of their formal arrival on Microsoft Store. Moreover, if you're on Android, you can use Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox to see how PWAs advance the app experience.