Find out why the .APP domain and Progressive Web Apps could be the perfect combination for your next project.

The .APP Domain & PWAs Are The Perfect Pair

A brief look into both progressive web apps and the .APP domain extension. We explore the synergies between these two technologies and a look inside the mind of Google.

The modern internet and the technologies that surround it are throwing up some interesting new ideas as the technology matures. Two of these ideas that have recently come to the forefront are Progressive Web Apps and Google's new security-focused .APP domain extension. While these are different topics, in many ways they complement and enhance each other. Both have an emphasis on security, and both relate to application technologies. Here are a few thoughts on how these two can work together.

So first let's talk about Google's .APP domain name extension.

What is the Google .APP domain name extension?

The .APP extension is a Top Level Domain (TLD) extension, so domain names using this extension would end in .APP in the same way that many end in .COM, .NET, or .ORG (eg. Google.com, Google.app). Google bought the rights for the .APP domain name extension from ICANN back in 2015 for around $25 million. You don't need to go to Google to register domains with this extension though, pretty much any domain registrar will register one for you.

What is the .APP extension intended to be used for?

The .APP extension is mainly targeted for use by websites that have an associated mobile application available. So, the apps you might download and run on your phone or tablet would usually also have a website with a domain ending in .APP that provides users and potential downloaders with information and support functionality for the app. By using the .APP extension these websites provide visitors with a fair idea of what the website is about just from the domain name. This gets the visitor up to speed on what type of information they can expect from the site and lets the website owner focus on providing that information. Like most top-level domain extensions, the .APP TLD can be, and often is, used for purposes other than what it was originally designed for however.

What audience are websites using the .APP extension intended for?

The .APP extension is targeted at people interested in using mobile application software. This might include people using business apps, tool apps such as web browsers and text editors, photo editing apps, mobile games, and many other types of applications. The website visitor might be looking for more information about the associated app, or they might need support for issues with that app. In some cases though the website itself might be an app that the user runs via a web browser or similar client.

What are the security considerations for websites with the .APP extension?

You need to use the HTTPS protocol for your .APP websites, rather than HTTP. The .APP extension is included on the HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) pre-load list. This has the advantage that you don't need to manually register or configure HSTS, but it also means that unsecured connections via HTTP won't work. This is an advantage for your site because it ensures that it is secure and is not vulnerable to a variety of common security attacks. Most sites these days choose to use HTTPS anyway, and Google is reputed to prefer HTTPS sites over HTTP in their search engine rankings.

How much does a domain with a .APP extension cost?

Most domain registrars will register an .APP domain for around USD $12 to $15 per year, but some may charge up to $34 per year. It's best to shop around, rather than take the first offer you see. Renewal and transfer may cost a dollar or two extra depending on whether the initial registration cost was discounted by the registrar. So, .APP domains are very similar in cost to other more common top-level domains such as .COM, and are very affordable as a result.

Okay, so that's the basics of the .APP domain name extension. But what are Progressive Web Apps, and what purpose do they serve?

What is a progressive web app?

The definitions for progressive web apps are a little vague at this point, but they are basically applications that run via web browsers and adopt modern standards in regards to security and execution. They use secure protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) to communicate and use JavaScript Service Workers to keep themselves up-to-date and perform other tasks. Progressive web apps can usually run offline in a similar fashion to standard apps. They also require a JSON web app manifest that tells the web browser about the app. Essentially they are designed to work and behave like an application that you might install directly onto your computer, but they run on a web browser and are accessed like a website.

Why make your app a progressive web app rather than a standard desktop or mobile app?

There are a few possible answers here, and some of the reasons may be specific to the needs and motivations of specific apps and developers. One reason is that if you are making an application then one problem that you will encounter is getting people to actually install it. The more effort required on the part of the potential user the more likely they are to balk at going through all that trouble. Progressive web apps are basically websites though. All a user has to usually do to install it is to visit the site. If more work is involved on their part to get more functionality from the app then they have already had a solid taste of what the app can do for them and they will be far more likely to put that work in as a result.

What is the intended audience for progressive web apps?

Progressive web apps are similar to the standard apps you might find on your computer or mobile device and the users are generally the same users that might use those apps. Progressive web apps running on modern web browsers can serve as diverse a range of purposes as other apps, and might attract an audience ranging from gamers to business app users. Generally, the user will be responsive to running an app via their web browser and may appreciate the easier access to the app and the cloud storage options that a web app might provide.

What browsers provide support for progressive web apps?

Both Chrome and the Opera browser (which is based on Chrome) fully support progressive web apps. Firefox and other browsers have nearly caught up and will likely fully support this functionality in the near future.

So, the app domain is intended for use by app-related websites, and progressive web apps are basically apps that run as websites? It seems like the two are destined for each other. Let's talk about how they can work together.

Which websites would benefit from making use of both the .APP Domain and progressive web apps?

Websites that need solid security would benefit from both progressive web app security measures and the security incorporated into .APP domains. E-commerce sites are obvious contenders, as the extra security and functionality would be a boon for sites that involve any financial transactions. Online banking websites would also benefit for the same reasons. Legal gambling sites tend to process a huge number of complex transactions, as do financial trading sites. All of these types of sites will likely add some fashion of web apps that use progressive web app technology in future, and an .APP domain would be a good home for those apps.

Many online game sites would also benefit. Browser-based games currently tend to use the '.IO' domain extension, but an .APP domain makes much more sense if they want to signal to a user that their site is really an app. The service worker technology behind progressive web apps is tech that games can utilize in interesting ways. One the primary benefits of a service worker is that websites can now operate offline. This allows websites with lots of moving pieces to both load faster and feel more snappy. Many current web games are limited in their functionality by the relatively clunky tech in existing web browsers, so new tech with more options will be welcome to the developers making those games.

Basically, any app-like website that needs to be secure, responsive, and available offline when needed would also benefit from being turned into a progressive web app, with an .APP domain name used to let the user know that it is not just a common website.

Examples of Web Apps

As we mentioned earlier, you’ve likely used web apps at least once, if not daily. To help you better understand what web apps look like for the user, we’ve collected a list for you to explore based on business category. We recommend checking them out on your phone or tablet for the best, immersive experience.

Social Networks

Startups

eCommerce

Education & News

Games

As the web grows and modernizes new technologies emerge and new opportunities come into play. Progressive web apps are one example of this. The service worker functionality behind these apps allows problems to be solved in ways that were once rarely possible via a web browser, and you may find that browsers evolve into more diverse app clients in future as a result of this. It will be interesting to see where these new technologies lead.

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Jonathan Emig

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