Microsoft releases version 2.0 of its PWA Builder tool

As part of its continuing Progressive Web Apps (PWA) work, Microsoft is making available the second iteration of its open-sourced PWA Builder tool.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has hit the 2.0 milestone with its Progressive Web App (PWA) Builder tool. At its upcoming Build 2019 conference and beyond, Microsoft officials are expected to bang the PWA drum more loudly, but not to the exclusion of native app development.

Microsoft has been working to make PWA support part of its overall Windows 10 and Edge browser stories for the last couple of years. PWA Builder, designed to turn web sites into apps, is a key piece of those plans.

The second iteration of PWA Builder has a new design, new "snippits" for integrating web programming interfaces and more, according to an April 18 blog post announcing the new release.

PWA Builder 2.0 includes features that went live with version 1.9, including the addition of a Mac desktop platform driven by Webkit; Webhint integration; and more service worker options. It also provides developers with their "PWA Builder Score" on the hub page, with the hope of encouraging them to add more components to their sites. With PWA Builder 2.0, its creators also are pushing developers to go beyond having just a manifest and service worker; they also can add cross-platform features like authentication, system integrations and more native-like UIs via Microsoft Graph programming interfaces.

Google has been the main champion of PWAs, which are basically web sites and/or apps that behave like native apps. Microsoft also has been offering developers a way to turn their websites/apps into Store apps using its "Westminster" bridge. But starting a couple of years ago, Microsoft joined forces with Google and other PWA backers. One key reason Microsoft is believed to be backing PWAs is that they may help increase the number and quality of apps located in the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft released Manifoldjs -- which was the predecessor of PWA Builder -- in 2015. PWA Builder is an open-source project Microsoft started about two years ago. Officials said that since that time, not only Microsoft, but Google, Mozilla, Samsung, Intel, Twitter and other companies have contributed code and ideas.

The PWA Builder team is working on the 2.1 update, according to the blog post announcing 2.0. The goals for 2.1 include a new way to package a PWA as Trusted Web Activity, which will allow developers to ship their PWAs to the Google Play Store. Better support for mobile, not just desktop, is on the team's radar, as well.

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