There are so many mobile application technologies that most users often don’t even know which one they’re using. All apps must be the same anyway, right? This article explains the differences between WebView and progressive web applications (PWA).
Have you ever come across a link in an app which should redirect you to a web browser upon clicking on it? There is a much more convenient solution we all use without realising. WebView is an integrated browser that can show web content directly in the mobile app.
The application itself accesses the content in the same way we do when surfing online in a browser. That’s some great news for apps that can’t run properly without loading content from the Internet! With such a functionality, this content now doesn’t have to be on the same server as the app.
In most cases, you won’t even notice the WebView component while using the app. It’s hidden among other UI elements and does nothing but display content available from the Internet.
To sum up: WebView is merely a visual component showing a window with a website and its content inside the app.
Displaying content within the app is the most obvious use of WebView. Instead of opening the browser and having the user switch from one app to another, the app can simply display the browser by itself. You have surely seen this on Facebook, for instance, where this happens after you click on an article.
One of the most popular ways of making money with apps is (unfortunately) advertisement. But how do ads show up in applications? Mostly via the WebView component that retrieves them directly from the web servers.
The above examples presented WebView as just an app component with more complex functions. However, there are also apps based solely on WebView. Their job is to load certain content from the Internet and allow the user to interact with it within the app. Put simply: It’s a standard browser with a fancy, themed UI. Examples include apps used by various media and newspapers.
A progressive web application is a technology capable of transforming a website into a mobile app, available to users on smartphones, tablets or desktops.
A PWA loads data from the original website, stores them and runs just like a standard app while retaining many of its features and advantages, such as running offline. PWAs need to be programmed just like normal apps, with the original website as the starting point. As opposed to native apps, the uniform code runs on all devices regardless of the operation system.
To sum up: WebView is a component built inside mobile apps to enable loading and displaying content from the Internet, or to allow the app to function as a web browser itself.
PWA is a stand-alone technology that facilitates converting existing websites to mobile apps run by short-cuts. It works similar to standard native (or hybrid) mobile apps.