XF 2.2 Progressive web app

Mobile app installation
Mobile first. We hear it again and again, and with over half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices, it's more important than ever to provide your mobile visitors with a great experience.

Of course, XenForo 2 is built on a fully responsive design that gracefully adapts to any display size and makes using XenForo a pleasure on all devices, but now we're taking it a step further by enabling any XenForo site to become a progressive web app.

Progressive web what?

Okay, let's back up a little. Imagine a technology that allows a web site to appear and behave like an app without having to produce native code for each platform, or go through any vendor's App Store equivalent.

Progressive web apps, or PWAs, aim to bridge the gap between websites and native applications on both mobile and desktop devices using a series of emerging web standards. Push notifications, a feature introduced in XenForo 2.1, are a popular example of one such standard. In XenForo 2.2, we're expanding our support for these standards by making XenForo installable, implementing more graceful offline handling, and adding support for the badging API.

Setting it up

It's important to note that, like push notifications, making full use of these features will require a few extra steps to set things up.

Additionally, as with push notifications, these features are only available on devices and browsers that fully support PWAs. Would you care to take a guess as to what the most notable exceptions might be? As you may have suspected, once again Safari on macOS and any iOS-based browsers are the culprits due to Apple's ongoing failure to implement industry standards. While Safari on both macOS and iOS does support graceful offline handling, it does not support installation or badging (more on that below) at this time.

We would encourage you to make your frustrations known in public by applying virtual tar and feathers to Apple employees online until they relent and get their act together... or at least voice your support for these standards by continuing to reach out to @webkit on Twitter or the webkit-help mailing list. Officially, the best place to communicate with Apple is via their product feedback channels, and presumably they won't be able to continue to ignore a deluge of feature requests for the same thing... 🤔


To make full use of these features...
  • Your XenForo installation must be accessed over SSL / HTTPS
  • Your site must have a relatively short title of 12 characters or fewer
  • You must publish a pair of square icons for your site, one at 192px and another at 512px.

Setting a short title

Publishing a pair of icons

What do PWAs look like?

If your site meets the requirements, your visitors will automatically be given the option to install your 'app' on their device.

The precise details of the interface and the circumstances permitting installation can vary by browser and in some cases can depend on the degree of interaction with your site a user has had.

When browsing with Chrome on desktop or Android, the app can be installed via the address bar on both mobile and desktop devices. On supported mobile devices, we also display a conspicuous yet unobtrusive banner in the off-canvas menu.

Mobile app install banner
Mobile app installation

Desktop app installation

Once the app is installed, it is readily available in exactly the same way as a native app. On mobile devices, that means it can be opened via an icon on the home screen. On desktop devices, it can be opened by searching your system or even pinning the app to your taskbar or dock.

Mobile app home screen
Desktop app home screen

Some devices will display a splash screen while the app is being loaded. The splash screen is automatically generated from the icons and background color of your style.

Mobile app splash screen

For most devices, we set the app to display a minimal interface. The elements of this interface also vary by browser, but most importantly include navigation controls. For Android devices running Chrome, we are able to use the native pull-to-refresh and back-button navigation controls, so we do without any additional interface.

Mobile app
Desktop app

If a user tries to open or navigate the app without a proper network connection, we display a simple offline message.

Mobile app offline page
Desktop app offline page

Chrome-based apps recently introduced support for application badging, which allows the app to indicate unread messages or alerts directly on its icon.
We are hopeful more browsers will support the badging API in the future.

Desktop app badging (Windows)

Looking toward the future

The PWA specification and standards are constantly evolving. We will continue to monitor them as time goes on in order to always provide the best possible experience on all devices.


Well-known member
How third parties themes and styles will be affected by this “app” would will run as on browser ?


XenForo developer
Staff member
A PWA generally doesn't affect anything of the viewport/style itself. It only really changes what sort of navigation controls may be displayed automatically. These are things normally handled by the browser's chrome.

So no effects on styles, etc.


Well-known member
This is nice. I mean I am already using manifest.webmanifest on my forum but this would improve the user experience massively.
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Well-known member
This is great :)

We recently started to deploy standalone PWA on XF 2.1 and generally got positive feedback, except for users missing pull-to-refresh, so it might be a good idea to implement this in a browser-independant way (which is what we did using MIT licensed pulltorefresh.js).

It might also be a good idea to make the "App Title" independent of the main forum title.
I should have payed more attention to the screenshots ;) This is already implemented..

Does the PWA also support Web Share?
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Well-known member
Looks interesting, albeit not too sure how usable something like this is over a browser shortcut.
IMHO, it does have quite a few advantages over a browser shortcut:
  • It does run as it's own "task", so you can easily switch between the App and others tasks
  • If started in standalone mode, if does feel more like an App as the navigation controls/URL bar are hidden which also does give a little bit more screen space
  • Push Notifications will show up on its own instead of being your Browser (Chrome, etc.)
  • On suporting systems, a PWA can be a share target
  • If users click on links to 3rd party websites, they can easily go back to the App by clicking X, just like they are used to from Apps like Twitter, Facebook, etc.
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