Google has taken a big step in its efforts to make mobile websites act more like native applications on Android smartphones, by adding notifications to its browser.
One of the most convincing arguments for building an application instead of a website has been the ability to send notifications to users. Google is hoping to narrow that advantage by adding the feature to version 42 of its Chrome browser for Android.
As a result, Android developers no longer have to decide between the engagement potential of a native app and the reach of a mobile website, Google said in a blog post on Monday.
For users, the notifications will look and act as those sent from applications. They still show up in the notification tray, but a click takes users to a website instead of an app. Users still have to opt in before a website can send them any messages.
Over the coming weeks, early adopters such as eBay, Facebook, and Pinterest will start sending notifications, according to Google.
What notifications offer was a major theme at a recent event organized by the Online News Association in London.
While they offer the opportunity to engage more closely with users, they are also the easiest way to get them to uninstall an app if not done right. It's important to be upfront with how many notifications will be sent and what they will cover, and then stick to that, speakers at the event said.
Companies like Roost and Mobify are providing services that aim to make it easier for developers to integrate push notifications with their sites. The former lets companies use its dashboard, its APIs and its WordPress plugin to send notifications to Chrome users on Windows, Mac, and now Android, it said in a blog post.
This upgrade is part of a larger effort by Google to make mobile-optimized websites look more like installed apps when using Chrome. The upgraded version also lets developers add a pop-up banner that users can click on to add the site to their home screen.
Other recent changes include full offline support, and access to device capabilities such as the camera and geolocation, according to Google. These new features will continue to improve and evolve over time, removing the difficult choice for developers between the reach of the mobile web and the engagement of native apps, it said.