This is 2021 as the time of writing, and still, many people do not know what a PWA is.
It is a terrible name, I admit: Progressive Web App. Only the Web App is self explanatory.
For what really matters, a PWA web site can pretend to be an App.
You can install this web site as you would an App, on many platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux.
It gets a shortcut on your desktop and launch menu, or home screen (for smartphones).
But, crucially, it is not an App. It looks like one, giving you all the benefits, without the security issues or viruses.
Microsoft is also now pushing PWA with Edge
The future should be bright for PWA. The technology and standard can be used by anybody.
Recently Microsoft decided to make it very easy to interact with PWA sites and apps. It was already easy on Android.
Users should love it because research shows they install fewer and fewer Apps on their smartphones.
So, offering a PWA as an alternative is very helpful.
PWA are powerful although not as good as native apps
PWA do not require a specific level or sophistication in their interface.
In fact they can be crude. But it is also possible, using React, Vue.js and other frameworks, to offer very sophisticated UI and experiences in a PWA.
Many developers would argue React Native or actual Swift and Android native apps are the right way to go.
In terms of performance and capabilities, this is certainly the case. But these do require going through the App stores on multiple platforms. It is a pain. And as recent examples showed, Apple or others can suddenly decide to remove your App from the store.. for little or no reason.
On the other hand, for users, PWA can be close enough: it looks like an App, they do not have to install them and they are secure.
PWA for desktop is great too
But in this case, there is no sufficient data to show users mind using the desktop App stores.
There is less incentive for PWA on desktops than on smartphones.
That being said, PWA have the same very important security advantage over regular desktop software.
They are extremely secure in comparison. There is no virus. They are fully sand-boxed, meaning they do not have access to your files or network. You are still vulnerable to some web specific threats, but no more than going to any web site, which.. they are after all.
Apple might be limiting this future
Within the Apple Eco-system you can absolutely use PWAs. They work great. I use them everyday.
Support is slightly more limited than on other platforms, but it still works great.
The issue is the significant risk Apple decides to force everyone to go through their App stores, regardless of device.
This is already the case on iPhone and iPad, obviously, with the exception, the loophole of PWA "install".
On desktop, it is no secret Apple would love to force everyone to use the Mac store to install anything.
Even though Cupertino presents this as for the security and privacy of users, it seems more realistic it is a move to close everything behind Apple's pay wall.
For now, PWA work on Apple devices, but who is to say this will be true in five years.
The price could be to create a PWA version for everyone and every platform, and create a native version or at least a version going through the Mac and App stores for Apple.
Regardless, PWA are the future, and if something replaces this technology, it should still offer the exact same advantages.
By the way, SAM9000 Apps are all PWAs. They work great on all platforms, with many different form factors. They are ultra fast, just like any App. But they offer users the flexibility to use our software on their preferred device.. or like myself on several devices, sometimes at the same time!