Google introduced a new way for developers to package web applications into Android apps last year, called Trusted Web Activities. The web apps run inside a modified Chrome Custom Tab, which meant that if your default browser wasn't Chrome (or based on Chrome), they would default to running in Google's browser. Firefox for Android has now added support for TWAs, so if Firefox is your default browser, the apps will run inside a Firefox container instead of Chrome.
Chrome 84 entered beta just a few weeks ago, but it's already rolling out on the stable channel across all platforms. This is one of the most significant Chrome updates we've seen in a while, with a few removed features and new functionality for both regular people and developers. Let's dive right in!
'Web wrappers,' or web applications haphazardly packaged into native apps for distribution on app stores, have existed on Android for over a decade. Google created a new method for converting web apps into native apps last year, with the introduction of Trusted Web Activities, and now Microsoft has updated its PWABuilder tool to take advantage of newer web features.
YouTube Music may not have had the most auspicious beginnings, but the service is quickly adding features ahead of Google Play Music's impending shutdown. Earlier this month the Explore tab started rolling out on the web, then the Android app gained a new 'Related' tab, and just last week it added the ability to swipe between songs. Now YouTube Music on the web is gaining a small speed improvement to album playback.
Twitter is making it easier to manage your tweets and replies before you're ready to send them out. The company has announced that its web app now supports saving drafts and scheduling tweets for a later time, something that's only been available through third-party services or Twitter for Business earlier.
Progressive Web Apps might not be able to replace every kind of native application, but they can be viable replacements for some apps written with the Electron web wrapper technology. The desktop app for Google's business-focused Chat app was previously written in Electron, but now the company has replaced it with a shiny PWA.
Progressive Web Apps are becoming more and more capable, mostly thanks to the rapid pace at which the Chrome team is adding new APIs. Last month's release of Chrome 81 brought badges to web apps installed to your device (though not on Android), and now another improvement is on the way — home screen shortcut support.
Social media platforms have maintained slimmed-down versions of their apps in the past few years to grab more users from developing markets with low-end hardware. Facebook, however, has decided to shut down Instagram Lite and is now redirecting users to the main app. The company has not said why.
Chrome OS can run both web applications and Android apps, but sometimes, the Android app for a service isn't quite as optimized for Chromebooks as the web app equivalent. Google has seemingly realized this, as it is experimenting with a new Play Store feature that installs Progressive Web Apps on Chromebooks instead of the Android app equivalents.