The PWA Hokey Pokey

by | Mar 15, 2024

It’s been like the Hokey Pokey for PWAs on iOS over the past couple of weeks (Or the Hokey Cokey for the people from the UK). Progressive Web Applications, or Home Screen web apps as Apple calls them, have been a hot topic since Apple released beta access to their newest operating system, 17.4, a few weeks ago.

What is a PWA?

Progressive Web Applications are web apps that can look and feel like native applications on phones, tablets, PCs etc. They are installable, so once on your device, you can access them like any other application you have installed. In v1.16 of Squirrel365, we added support for PWAs. Your published project can now be treated as a PWA and be installable.

Apple are causing a stir…

However, in Apple’s beta release of iOS 17.4, They have made changes to accommodate the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA is an EU regulation aiming to make the digital economy fairer. Apple has been responding to the regulation to open app stores and browser capabilities for other companies to use. Citing security risks, Apple also removed support for PWAs, causing a bit of a stir in the developer community.

The EU responded by opening an investigation into Apple again. And groups such as the Open Web Advocacy group, sent an open letter to Tim Cook at Apple to lift the ban. On Friday (1st March), in a surprise U-turn, Apple reversed its decision. Support for PWAs will go back into iOS 17.4.

How does this affect Squirrel365?

It’s been a roller-coaster of a few weeks for us. Having just released support for PWAs, then all that happened! Even though these changes will only impact our EU customers, we see an opportunity to accelerate our plans for PWAs in Squirrel365.
Initially, we kept the implementation light. Just enough to show off the potential of progressive web applications. Our goal was always to support more capabilities and distribution options. Ultimately, we plan to enable the release of PWAs as native applications to the app stores on Apple, Android, Windows etc.

With the potential for PWAs to be broken on EU Apple devices, we bumped “publishing to app stores” up our roadmap list. And despite the latest U-turn, we are not taking our foot off the gas. Phase 2 of PWAs is in R&D, and we’re actively working on native publishing as part of this phase.

As soon as we have any updates, I will share what we’ve done. In the meantime, let’s hope the PWA Hokey Pokey doesn’t progress any further with PWAs being “shaken all about”!