I was on holiday after I/O last week when Jeremy wrote up some of his thoughts on the current state of PWA UI treatment for URL access. We chatted on Twitter (apologies to Frances) and he followed up here.
A few things seem obscured by the debate so far:
- Most “opens” of PWAs happen in tabs through normal navigation. This has multiple causes, including an inability (which we’ll resolve at some point) for Chrome to be able to open navigations to PWAs from external sources in non-
- Very few sites were using
display: "browser". This means that the change Jeremy objected to affects a minuscule number of sites (today). Now, obviously, Jeremy could go and evangelize all PWA developers to use
display: "browser", but that sort of seems misguided because…
- It doesn’t solve the problem of URL access or Sharing for sites that chose a different mode (e.g.
That last point is the high-order bit for me. Like Jeremy, I’m agitated over the lack of access to URLs for PWAs launched in a more immersive mode. That seems to be the thing to be frustrated about if you care about URLs and sharing and it’s my concern too — so much so that our team prioritized fixing it this quarter. New UI and gestures are hard to get right which is why I’m excited that Owen and Rebecca have been looking into how to make URLs accessible to PWA users no matter what display mode they’re in. We’ll have more to show on this front soon.
This matters because URL sharing is the proto-social behavior. It’s what enabled the web to spread and prosper, and it’s something we take for granted. In fact, if you look at any of my talks, you’ll see that I call it out as the web’s superpower.
We’re going to do something about this imminently because web developers who are building PWAs tend to forget about sharing. It’s been painful in our audits of partner apps to have to remind them to “build a share button” and then make sure it’s available on-screen in the right modes. It sucks to implement and it’s harder to use than a ubiquitous UI contract. At the same time, successful PWA developers are striving for UI consistency with the native platform their apps run on. They want their Web cake and the want to eat it like an App. The onus, then, is clearly on the browser to bring URL access back in ways that developers can’t defeat and can’t forget.
Which brings us to a final point that seems to have been lost: browsers can fix the real issue — sharing of PWAs and access to URLs — without anyone changing anything about their apps, and can do it out-of-band. Obviously, this is only true for browsers that support PWAs and have fast update cycles which, today, is all PWA-supporting browsers; namely Chrome, Opera, and Samsung Internet. The folks who work on these browsers — including myself — care as much as Jeremy does about the health and future of the web. I’m grateful to him for highlighting this issue and hope we can work together in the future to figure out ways to keep the best bits of the web healthy as PWAs become a common way to get back to sites users love.