Google appears to be ramping up work on Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as the concept gains more traction and may even be beginning to address some of the issues currently associated with those. For those who aren't aware, PWAs are a relatively recent attempt to bridge the gap between the comfort and convenience of mobile applications and the way websites function. They are intended to be websites which, taking advantage of all of the latest cross-platform compatibility and added functionality allowed by modern web development, are "installable" and function like applications. Sites such as Google's Maps have been working similarly to how PWAs are expected to for quite some time, for example. However, there are still problems with delivering the experience in a way that captures users and encourages their use beyond current iterations. Primarily those issues center around discoverability and distinguishing progressive web apps from applications. As PWAs grow more popular among web developers, the hope is that they will become ubiquitous and ultimately change the way the web works.
Although Google's repositories reportedly contain every indication that the current iteration of how a PWA works is by no means final, it has already begun to address both issues. First, it has outlined everything a progressive web app should be, in order to set them apart from standard websites. Those standards include everything from the progressive nature of the web app – allowing them to work regardless of platform or browser – to the nature of their installation and independence from connectivity. Paradoxically, they shouldn't actually need to be installed but should act as a secure standalone website with an app's functionality and feature connectivity only as required to keep content fresh. They should also, according to the search giant, be discoverable via a simple search, thanks to W3C manifest and service worker registration. That would mean that, rather than requiring a dedicated app store, a user should be able to simply access a website they already use or have recently found via a search. From there, they should be able to access the PWA without any additional hassle. In effect, they should act as normal web pages while allowing easy offline caching and updating in addition to more intuitive interactions that users have come to enjoy from mobile applications.
It goes without saying that these standards and discoverability via an app store or web store may be added somewhere along the line to further differentiate from standard websites. However, it isn't immediately clear whether Google wants any part of that. On the surface, dedicated PWA stores or integration with current stores might take away from the whole purpose. It should at the very least be interesting to see the solutions Google comes up with to get more internet users on board with PWAs.