Web apps are about to get better on Windows 10

Many desktop apps, such as Discord and Spotify, are based on web-based technologies and generally consume system resources compared to proper native apps. Microsoft has been working on an alternative to the Electron framework that most web apps use, and now it’s rolling out to Windows 10.

Microsoft has announced that the WebView2 runtime is rolling out to all Windows 10 PCs, if they are running the April 2018 Update or later. The component was already included in Windows 11, but previously apps had to bundle the entire runtime (increasing download size and complexity) if they wanted to use WebView2 on Windows 10. Now the component will be on even more from PCs, it could become a more popular choice for web applications.

Slack, Discord, Skype, Spotify, Visual Studio Code and countless other desktop apps are built with Electron, which is based on the same engine that powers Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and other browsers. The framework has made it much easier to build cross-platform apps, but Electron apps are notoriously CPU and memory intensive, which slows down the computer and reduces battery life on laptops.

Microsoft is working on “WebView2” for Windows 10 and 11, which is primarily intended for Windows applications that need to embed web pages (like login forms). However, WebView2 can also power entire apps on its own, just like Electron – Microsoft Teams on Windows 11 is a WebView2 app.

WebView2 brings a few benefits to web applications. Because the runtime is included in Windows 11 and 10, apps don’t need to bundle the entire engine with their apps, which reduces file sizes and download times for updates. If apps use the included runtime (developers can always choose to bundle a specific version if they want), they will get performance and battery life improvements from new versions of WebView2 as Microsoft continues to improve it.

There aren’t many apps using WebView2 right now, but now that it’s rolled out to millions more PCs, it might start to become a popular alternative to resource-hungry frameworks like Electron. We could all use more apps that don’t drain batteries and consume RAM.

Source: Microsoft Edge Blog

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Steven L. Nielsen