Apple Starts Implementing Progressive Web App (PWA) Plumbing & Rejecting App Store Submissions

Recent activity from Cupertino is indicating that Apple will be supporting progressive web apps sometime in 2018. A combination of app store churn and service workers support our exciting news in recent months.

Sometime in September Apple started removing apps en masse from the iOS app store. They also began rejecting many new app store submissions.


The primary target of these rejections is a clause in the iOS app guidelines of section 4.2.6. Specifically it says that apps cannot be created from commercialized template or app generation services.

This clause alone has affected several hundred thousand apps in the iOS ecosystem. Many small businesses have seen there apps removed or rejected.

Some startups have even reported that there apps submissions have been flat out turned down.

This is making it tough sledding for businesses hoping to strike gold in the land of native apps. 

What is Apple Recommending Instead?

Apple is directing rejected businesses to use the web!
 
Specifically what they are talking about is the concept of a web app or what is becoming known more commonly as a progressive web app.

Apple is rejecting some apps because they don't feel they are 'app-like'. This is a term that has a vague meaning. They even admit they don't have a pure definition, it is completely arbitrary.

But if you are not using deep platform integration chances are you will fail the litmus test.


Apple Was the Original Web App Platform 

Many people have forgotten that when Apple originally released the iPhone, the way they recommended building apps was a web app.

The infrastructure is still in place for that web app architecture. However the web has evolved since then and there are many new features available to make great web experiences.

If you add the proper META elements to your page's head the user can add your web app the the home screen. Your web app then gets an icon, like a native app, and can launch without the browser chrome. This makes the web app appear just like a native app. 

Apple Safari ships ServiceWorkers on iOS and Mac OS


Just before Christmas Apple released an update to the Safari technology preview addition. If you're not familiar with this, it is an early beta release of the Safari browser.

In that release they shipped the first version of Safari supporting service workers. Over the past two months they have made iterative updates to service workers, improving many bugs. 

Another feature they are quietly working on is web manifest support.

Currently iOS Safari supports the notion of touch icon's and web application meta-tags. Web manifest files supersede this approach and Apple seems to be pointing to a direction of deprecating the traditional web app meta-tags.
 
At this point both the service worker support and web manifest support has been reported to be a little buggy, but improving. We still don't know what the final progressive web application story will be on iOS, but I suspect we will find out more in the next few months.
 
The fact that Apple is starting to purge many applications out of the app store and have begun to implement modern web APIs like Service Workers and web manifest send a clear signal to progressive web apps are going to have enthusiastic ubiquitous support by the end of 2018.
 
This is great news for developers and business owners because now we can create great user experiences without the overhead and excessive expenses the building native applications for all the different platforms.


Progressive web app support on iOS will also create more demand for skilled progressive web application developers. So you want to make sure that your skills in creating good service workers and crafting great off-line caching strategies is above par.

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