Michaela Merz's personal blog site

Web Apps: Dear Google, dear Apple …

PWAs .. or .. progressive web apps make it easy – in principle – to develop rich and flexible user experiences without developing 3 different versions: for iOS, Android and the web. That’s the idea – however, rivalry and different business perspectives make it far more complicated and impossible to get stuff done. Time for an open letter …

Dear Google, dear Apple:

many thanks for bringing us “smart” phones and related services. Developing apps was a thing at one time, but more and more people and companies realized that it is too expensive and too complicated to maintain three platforms in order to communicate with customers.

That’s when folks started to use the web and make it more mobile friendly. It’s really not that complicated to make web-sites “responsive” and that’s the state of the art as of today. Technology now allows us to “install” web-sites as “apps” which is awesome and it really closes the gap between traditional “apps” and PGAs. Kudos to y’all .

But you stopped somewhere in between installing the web-app and truly allowing it to behave like a native app. And, looking at you Apple, why are you artificially blocking important web-technology such as the “download” attribute on URLs? Why are you not participating in web-push? Why is an “installed” web-app behaving even worse than a regular web-site? Yes – we know – allowing web-developers to sneak into your well-groomed walled garden scares you. But if you let Safari become the Internet Explorer of 2019, you might be losing even more.

And .. talking about walled gardens: Why are you Google not treating urgent push notifications with the same respect and expedience like other (GCM) push notifications? How do you suppose we do  webRTC calls when we aren’t able to signal an incoming call? Why do you block silent push notifications that would allow us to update certain information within the web-app? I know there’s some basic work done on a web-app contacts API – which is urgently needed – but we need more basic stuff: Like events that allow us to determine if the app is being suspended / frozen or of it has just been unfrozen.

To paint in broader strokes: Installed PGAs should be treated like any other app. We should be able to request permissions to directly access the file system, contacts, phone- and messages, whatever a native app does – installed web-apps should be allowed to do the same.

Dear Apple, Google: It doesn’t really matter if you push Java, Kotlin, Swift or any other language to get people to build new or more apps. We don’t have the time, the money or the urge to develop everything twice or even three times. And with modern JavaScript, we don’t have to.

So please: Embrace the new progressive web app environment and provide the tools we need to get the job done. Not just to display some marketing talk, but also to create highly flexible, robust and interactive apps that feel and behave the way YOUR users want it.

Thank you.


About the author:

Michaela Merz is an entrepreneur and first generation hacker. Her career started even before the Internet was available. She invented and developed a number of technologies now considered to be standard in modern web-environments. Among other things, she developed, founded, managed and sold Germany’s third largest Internet Online Service “germany.net” . She is very much active in the Internet business and  enjoys “hacking” modern technologies like block chain, IoT and mobile-, voice- and web-based services.

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