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What makes Ola’s Progressive Web App a treat for users on slower networks

LiveMint logoLiveMint 19-05-2017 Abhijit Ahaskar

Ola Cabs has found a new way of keeping users on patchy and slower networks happy. The Bengaluru-based cab aggregator has released a Progressive Web App (PWA), also known as Instant Apps, for smartphone and desktop users. It can be accessed in any Web browser at

Though referred to as an app, PWA is essentially a webpage that provides the experience and features of a native app (downloaded from the app store) in a browser. Users can even add a shortcut to Ola PWA on their homepage and receive notifications.

What is PWA and how it works

The idea behind PWA is to help developers create a lighter version of their app for users who don’t have the free space to install an app or Internet bandwidth to run them. It can be really helpful for developers as they don’t have to go through the longer process of developing apps and then wait for the store owners to approve it.

PWA was first announced as a limited preview at the Google I/O developer conference in the US last year.

Twitter Lite, released in April, is another popular PWA. Ola is the first Indian app developer to join the club.

PWA is likely to see more adoption in future as Google has released the SDK (software development kit) to develop these apps for everyone.

What makes a PWA better than a regular webpage and as good as the native app is the bunch of tools built into it. One of them is a JavaScript file called Service Workers, which can make websites open faster and work even when the device is offline by pre-caching key elements of the website. The App Shell model allows the developer to replicate the interface of a native app on a PWA. App Manifest is another tool which allows user to create a shortcut of the webpage on their Android smartphone and even receive notifications like them.

What makes Ola PWA better than the native app

Ola PWA has a smaller footprint (50 KB through the short cut) compared to the native app which takes up about 60 MB of space after installation. Users can log into Ola PWA with their mobile number and the OTP which was sent to the number. It has a slightly different interface from the native Ola app, but doesn’t miss out on any of the key features.

It provides users the option to enter their location, destination and select the available ride options. Once a cab is booked, a user can even see its location in real time on a map within the PWA. When offline, it uses the cached data to allow bookings on regular routes.

User can pay using Ola Money, credit cards or cash. It also includes the emergency contacts feature, which allows users to create a list of five emergency contacts who can be alerted in case of emergency with the tap of a single button.

Ola PWA is ideal for users on slower networks as it loads pages faster and offers all the features of the native app in a less resource intensive format.

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