Chrome 70 flips switch on Progressive Web Apps in Windows 10 – with janky results

Not quite the native experience Google's shooting for

Version 70 of the Chrome browser has begun to slither onto Windows 10, bringing with it Google's desktop take on Progressive Web App functionality.

Google has been banging the drum for Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for some time, initially seeing the tech as a way of improving the user experience of web apps before suggesting it could present a real alternative to native desktop applications.

The "native feel" is key to PWAs, and proponents seek to get to the point where a PWA feels just as snappy as its native cousin, and does not necessarily need an internet connection or a visible browser window in order to function.

PWAs have been lurking in preview for a while, but now Google has pressed the big red button in Chrome 70 – and the results are a little underwhelming.

The Register pointed the shiny new browser at a PWA in the form of Twitter. For balance, we also took a look a Progressive Beer, which seems a far better use of the technology.

Clicking install from Chrome was all that was necessary to get the web apps to appear in the Windows 10 Start Menu, and pinning them to the taskbar was trivial. So far so seamless? Sadly, not quite.

While Google may be shooting for the native experience, there is no getting away from the fact that its implementation remains a Chrome browser window shorn of fripperies such as tabs and toolbars. Put a PWA app side by side against a native Windows 10 app, even a UWP one, and the differences are clear and will be jarring to some. More cosmetically, the Start Menu icons also differ from their native brethren and more than once the icon in the taskbar inexplicably switched to one for Google Chrome.

Digging deeper, we found notifications worked well overall, although badges in the launch icon on the taskbar are not there yet (something Google acknowledged in its post). And the integration into the OS has not reached the point where the Windows Task Manager will show the name of the PWA rather than "Google Chrome".

While PWAs can also be found masquerading as Windows apps in the Microsoft Store (and are launched by Redmond's Edge browser although do get named correctly in Task Manager), the Google approach bypasses the need for a shopfront.

Similarly, Apple quietly added support to its Safari browser, although has been a tad reticent about it. After all, it is possible to pin a PWA to an iOS homescreen, bypassing the App Store. Kind old Apple has, of course, slapped a bucketload of restrictions on the tech, making native apps a better bet. For now.

Linux and Mac Chrome users will be able to join their Windows 10 and Chrome OS chums in Google's idea of PWA once version 72 of Mountain View's browser makes an appearance later this year. ®




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