Apps And Web Converge
In the fireside chat with the Android team this year at #io16
, there was an interesting question posed to the team. The phrasing of the question was a bit odd and the response to the question was kind of more about discerning what was meant by the question than actually answering it, but still, there was something important being asked. It was about whether developers should be making web apps or native apps.
Google I/O 2016 debuted the power of Android Instant Apps. At the same time, it also showcased and pushed offline-first web apps. This is fascinating, because both of those technologies blur the lines between web apps and native mobile apps.
Android Instant Apps create app experiences that people never have to install. This is kind of like how web apps function today: you click links and enjoy the web. In this case though, you're clicking links and launching apps that haven't been installed, but that Google auto-loads for you. Only the parts that you need are loaded, so it's quick. Almost instant. Very much like web experiences. And when you leave, they're gone, nothing left to uninstall.
On the other hand, offline-first web apps are web experiences that really push offline capabilities. There was a huge push for this at I/O this year and lots of technologies were shown to really make this work well. Being able to save an icon on your homescreen for a web page is something you could always do. But having this icon work offline is something only native apps could do before. Now web apps can work offline just like native apps can.
So with offline-first apps, web apps are becoming more like native apps, and with Android Instant apps, native apps are becoming more like web apps.
This is fascinating because it's unclear where the world will go. Will one technology win out? Will both persist? For Google, it doesn't matter, they are bringing the power of each to the other and are betting on both. The lines have been blurred and Google wins either way.
Very interesting to see this move. It's a very Google-ish move too: multiple technologies that seem to do the same thing. Think ChromeOS and Android here. They don't care that they have two competing platforms. The users will decide. Google has a great philosophy on this that one of their employees shared at I/O this year, "if something is really good, it's worth doing twice". Counter-intuitive? Perhaps. Counter-productive? Maybe. But there's also a glimmer of something brilliant in there too. This isn't normal, but it also feels right. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
h/t +John Blossom +Marques Brownlee