Microsoft proposes Chromium changes to bring URL Protocol handling to PWAs

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Since Microsoft’s Edge browser made the switch to the Chromium open source project, the company has been making various contributions that should eventually benefit all Chromium-based web browsers. Recently, we wrote about Microsoft proposing a change to bring Title Bar customization options for Progressive Web Apps, but Windows Latest has since noticed another interesting proposition from Microsoft aiming to make PWAs behave more like native apps.

In an explainer document on GitHub, the Microsoft Edge team revealed its plan to allow PWAs to be registered as handlers for URL protocols, so that clicking on links such as mailto:// , ms-word:// or web+music:// from the web or an app would open registered PWAs that have been installed on a PC.Here are three use cases detailed by the Edge team:

  • Cross app integration. A user opens a document using a PWA. The document contains a link to a presentation (ms-powerpoint://deck2378465). When the user clicks on it, the presentation PWA automatically opens in the correct scope and shows the slide deck.
  • In a native chat app, the user receives a link to some magnet:// URL. When she clicks the link, an installed torrent PWA is launched.
  • A user has installed a PWA for a music app. When a friend shares a link to a song and she clicks on it (web+music://songid=1234&time=0:13) the PWA will automatically launch instead of opening a new tab in the browser.

Replacing websites or desktop apps by PWAs is definitely something only power users would do, but as the Edge team explained, this proposition is all about making PWAs a “more engaging native-like experience.” It certainly could have its merits, especially since the new Chromium-based Edge now makes it pretty easy to install PWAs from the web. And truth be told, some PWAs like or Spotify are now just as good or better than their desktop counterparts.

It remains to be seen if this proposition from the Microsoft Edge team ends up in Chromium, but after Microsoft abandoned its plan to bring PWAs to the Windows 10 Microsoft Store, the new Edge seems to be an interesting new gateway to bring more “apps” to Windows.