One of the key advantages of native apps is their ability to access specific data that web apps can’t. This access is a problem that Google is attempting to resolve so they can increase the adoption rate of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). It’s important to Google because they need PWAs to become mainstream.
Native apps present an existential threat to Google. That’s especially true if you use non-Android devices. When you search on Google using an iPhone, visit a site, and then click on the link to install a native app, you have essentially closed the door on Google.
Google’s latest initiative to bring native app functionality to PWAs is with its Contact Picker API. The feature is currently available in the latest version of Chrome 77 for Android. It allows users to view and select contacts from their device on a PWA, similar to how they would with a native app.
The feature isn’t turned on by default, and if Android users want to test the functionality, they’ll have to jump through some hoops to activate it. Once the feature is enabled, users can test it with the Contact Picker API Demo.
Google is aware that exposing contact records to a PWA has inherent security and privacy concerns. They’ve addressed those concerns with an explainer that describes user control limitation, data transparency, and the lack of permission persistence.
It should be noted that Microsoft and Mozilla have shown support for this API, and Facebook may be interested in it too.
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