Tag Archive for ‘Web Apps’

Web Push Notifications Coming to Safari for iOS in 2023 ➝

From the Safari section of Apple’s iOS 16 Preview page:

Adds support for opt‑in notifications on iOS. Coming in 2023.

As much as I hate being prompted to enable notifications for web pages, this is probably the biggest feature that sets native apps apart from web apps from a practical standpoint. The introduction of this feature will give developers a much more realistic alternative to the App Store.

And that’s not just about avoiding the pitfalls of Apple’s app review process, this could also help startups streamline their development by targeting the web first, giving users a pretty solid experience on iOS, Android, and the desktop before they start working on native apps for each platform.

➝ Source: apple.com

Cloudron, a Complete Solution for Self-Hosting Web Apps ➝

I setup a Linode server last night with Cloudron to toy around with some more self-hosted apps. I’m very impressed so far. It offers a great collection of apps and easy-to-use tools for managing everything. I don’t know what all I’ll end up using long term, but I have Wallabag, AllTube, and Mastodon high on my list of apps to try.

It only allows installing up to two apps with the free plan, which is a little limiting, but I sort-of feel like I won’t regret paying if I end up doing so.

➝ Source: cloudron.io

Appscope, a Progressive Web App Directory ➝

I recently mentioned an idea I had for a web-based app store comprised of web apps. Despite the sweet solution being less than ideal, if Apple claims that the web is competition, it would be neat if it was stronger competition. And a central location for browsing web apps sounds like it would go a long way.

I did some digging and Appscope was the only service like this that I could find. And based on the activity on their Twitter account, I’m not sure if it’s being actively maintained. There’s also a handful of omissions that seem pretty obvious to me at least.

I’ll keep looking around, but I sort-of have a feeling I might end up building my own in some form or another. If only because I’m starting to grow tired of the control Apple wields over developers and would love to explore applications with alternative distribution methods.

➝ Source: appsco.pe

Apple’s Lame Alternatives for Reaching Users ➝

Sami Fathi, writing for MacRumors:

In a new filing (via ZDnet) responding to concerns from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission that it exploits “alleged market power in its role as a distributor of apps,” Apple highlights multiple avenues that developers can take to reach customers.

Specifically, Apple points out that the “whole web” exists as an alternative means of distribution, arguing that the web has become a platform unto itself. Apple supports this claim by noting that iOS devices have “unrestricted and uncontrolled” access to the web, allowing users to download web apps.

I’m an advocate for the open web and think there should be a lot more development of web apps built for mobile devices. And I would love to see their usage grow. But we all know — including the folks at Apple — that this is pretty lame. Web apps are not even close to being in the same league as native apps.

There should be a way to distribute apps outside of the App Store. The absence of this capability is holding the platform back.

➝ Source: macrumors.com

Using Workflow as a Site-Specific Browser

On macOS, there’s an application available called Fluid, which lets you create site-specific web browsers. Many of us use web apps everyday and Fluid allows you to run them side-by-side with your native applications without being sequestered inside of a web browser. Fluid is a handy little tool that every Mac user should have in their arsenal.

I’ve setup a Fluid instance of Overcast on my MacBook Air, complete with a proper icon, which let’s me treat Overcast just like any other Mac application. I didn’t have to wait for the developer, Marco Arment, to build a native app, I can just use Fluid to bridge the gap for me.

Shortcuts to my Site-Specific Browser Workflows

On iOS, Apple has built similar functionality right into Safari. From any webpage, you can tap on the share button and choose “Add to Home Screen”. Most websites have even setup a custom icon for this purpose, making sure their site’s shortcut doesn’t feel out of place alongside your native apps. But it’s not exactly a sweet solution.

Apple does offer developers a way to force these web apps to open in full screen without all of Safari’s browser chrome, but almost no one uses it. This functionality has fallen out of favor because it’s poorly supported by the system. These full screen web apps don’t use Apple’s latest JavaScript engine, which means they run much slower than they would if you visited them from within Safari, and they don’t save state between launches, which makes multitasking with these apps a nightmare.

Of course, you could always just save these website shortcuts to your Home Screen and let them open up in Safari, but that makes for a pretty mediocre experience. I want to treat these web apps like native applications and I don’t want to be forced to close a browser tab when I’m done using them — I always close my browser tabs when I’m done with them, it’s a sickness. But there is a solution and it’s made possible because of every iOS power users’ favorite utility — Workflow.

Site-Specific Browser Shortcuts in Workflow

To build these site-specific browsers, it just takes two simple actions — a URL action with the web app’s address and the Show Web Page action. When run, Workflow will open up the URL in a Safari View Controller, which gives you access to your action extensions alongside forward, back, and refresh buttons. From there you can give the workflow a name, set an icon color, and a glyph to fit the website or web application’s functionality.

You can run the workflow from within the Workflow app itself or you can add it to Workflow’s Today Widget. But if you want the web app to live alongside your native apps, I suggest adding a custom icon in the Home Screen tab and adding the workflow to your iOS device’s home screen. A simple DuckDuckGo or Google Image search for the site’s name and either “icon” or “logo” should turn up several options.

I’ve already built a handful of these site-specific browser workflows and I expect I’ll find more websites and web apps that I’d like to build them for in the future. Here’s just a few of my favorites:

  • Mint, Initial Charge’s analytics software.
  • Media Temple, the site’s hosting dashboard.
  • Instagram, because they still haven’t built a native iPad app.

Instagram in Safari View Controller

There is one major caveat with these workflows — they don’t scale well. You can use them while multitasking with native apps, but you can’t run more than one of these site-specific workflows at a time. Once you launch the second, it tosses out the first one.

You could open some of your web apps in Sidefari with its URL scheme as a workaround — letting you run one web app in Sidefari and another in Workflow. But in my testing, Sidefari often fails to load the web page if the app isn’t already in memory. It happens often enough that this workaround probably isn’t worth exploring. But if you’d like to test it yourself, just replace “http://” or “https://” at the beginning of the URL with with “sidefarihttp://” or “sidefarihttps://”, respectively, and swap the Show Web Page action for the Open URLs action.

But even with the multitasking limitations, being able to run web apps side-by-side with native applications is a neat experience. I hope you’ll find some utility in these workflows, even if you’re just looking for a better way to view Instagram on your iPad.