How to set up Progressive Web Apps in Chrome

Published by Lamin Kanteh on

Google, the first name that comes mind when you think of the world wide web, has been the pioneer of several technologies that have forever changed the face of the internet how users interact with services on it.

Through projects spearheaded by its open-source platform, Chromium, the tech company has seen several web technologies become widely adopted across the spectrum.

Google logo

Chrome as a browser and operating system has been going through several changes in the past couple of years, and the most significant among them is the axing of the web store from all platforms except Chrome OS.

The web store was (at a time) the only place you could access add-ons to Chrome either for efficiency or convenience. Because of this, the web store is one of the most important pillars for the entire Chrome Platform.

Despite its importance, Google realizes that the extension serving service isn’t robust enough to give the Chrome platform the elite status Google is vying for.

The company’s decision to do away with the web store is part of its effort to promote “Progressive Web Apps” and quite excitingly, it’s garnered enough interest and already started to influence our behavior in the ways we choose to interact with platforms and services online.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

The conventional method employed by developers when building apps and services are designing the web and app versions differently and sometimes separately with each behaving according to where the user wants to access it from.

You do notice how services access from the web differs in and design and behavior from those installed natively.

Google, however, wants to imagine a future where your favorite services can be access directly from your home screen – much like your native apps—and installable straight from the web without the need to go to an app store of any kind.

First experimented on handsets, the feature did finally make it to Chrome OS and Windows – with the Mac OS version said to be in works.

The new initiative isn’t only going to improve convenience but reliability as well.

The feature uses what is called “a service worker” – a program that is written using JavaScript, CSS3, and other open web frameworks – acts as a client-side proxy with the aim of putting you, the user, in control of the cache and how to respond to resource requests.

It accomplishes this by pre-caching key resources which in turn eliminates the dependence on the network, ensuring an instant and reliable experience even on spotty connections.

Google is also working making the PWA feel much more at home on your home screen by giving them an appearance akin to native apps on the device with an immersive user experience to boot.

In addition to making them feel and look more natural, some of these apps can work offline –like some native apps —, well placed in the overview menu, have their own custom window, and a launch icon for easy accessibility.

How to Install PWA on Chrome OS

Previously, before you could enable Progressive Web App Usage, you had to toggle through flags in Chrome but since October, users can visit sites that offer PWA and install it directly onto their system.

That is slowly being rolled out and you won’t find every site rocking it just yet (as at the time this article was published) but if you ever encounter one that does, take for example Spotify,  just click menu > Spotify and install it.

Tested sites powered by PWA

Lamin Kanteh

I live, breath, and dream technology. I've only known myself to push the boundaries on what's possible in my mental scope in relation to technology. And having been a writer for the good part of the past three years (covering varying subjects on the major mobile platforms), No place has ever felt more like home than Chrome OS. And as you may know, Chrome OS is ushering us into a future of the unknown and I'm here to help in the process of easing the way into that future via ItsChromeOS.

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