Chrome will soon inform users when Progressive Web Apps update their icon or name

Roben Walker

Progressive web apps are becoming the new standard for Chromebook owners – slowly, but surely. With more PWAs appearing on the Google Play Store seemingly by the week, Chrome OS users will eventually know exactly where to go in order to get new experiences for their device once they unbox it. Now that they’re getting more attention, the Chrome development team has implemented several improvements in the browser to handle the onboarding process for how they will fit into our lives.

A new developer flag that I just found in Chrome OS 94 Canary (works on Chrome as well!) will now ask the device owner to confirm that they understand when a web app makes changes to its name or icon. The dialog box you see below appeared in two instances – only one of which matters. YouTube Music did not change, but I was prompted as a result of toggling the flag. Basically, the browser prompted me because prior to it being enabled, it had no data.

Enable PWA install update dialog for name/icon changes

Enable a confirmation dialog that shows up when a PWA changes its icon/name – Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, Android

#pwa-update-dialog-for-name-and-icon

However, you’ll notice in the image on the right that Google Photos – while it did the same – updated itself to the standard ‘Google Photos’ name and replaced my custom nomenclature of ‘Photos’. I titled it simply and turned the website into an icon shortcut last year when the service updated its look and feel to include the softer edged-version of the pinwheel.

I do believe that this is a necessary step – informing users every step of the way and treating progressive web app experiences in the same way as local apps. The less they feel like ‘just another website URL’ and the more standalone they become, the more they will feel like something you chose to curate for yourself. There’s definitely psychology here with how the open web will move forward, and it’s nice to see Google thinking through its importance.

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Where I think there is a true opportunity though, is if Google adds website permissions to this pop-up. Chrome web extensions are already being treated with the same respect to user privacy and security on the Web Store as Android apps are on the Google Play Store. With PWAs entering into that marketplace in place of traditional apps, and with each PWA listing on the Play Store receiving a list of device permissions they will need to access in order to operate (camera, microphone, location, etc.) it only makes sense to allow the user to review these when and if they change as well!

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