Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) work seamlessly on Chrome and are often lightweight clones of their desktop counterparts based on JS frameworks like Electron.

If you’ve used Chrome — some websites prompt you to install their web app. PWAs on Chrome have features such as: service workers for offline capabilities, responsive design, and push notifications. (Firefox is not far behind!) infact, Firefox uses Google’s servers to push notifications to android-users.

/vulpes: disables push-notifications entirely; remove this line to revert this change

Why use PWAs over desktop-apps?

One word: bloat

Bundling V8, nodejs runtimes for every-single-electron-app is insane! An average electron app takes around 200mb on my laptop. Because the ecosystem is so fragmented, there are various issues around wayland compatibility because the former dependencies haven’t been updated in a while.

There are some workaround like using flags. But signal-desktop and element-desktop just segfault and crash unless you run xwayland

security nightmare

Why would discord, slack, or other (insert electron-app here) have un-restricted access to my system-resources. They can switch on your camera, record your microphone or run in the background because they aren’t sandboxed unless you manually tweak your flatpak dotfiles. These apps are proprietary and should be deemed evil until their source code is public.

Firefox had dropped official desktop PWA support in 2021

Electron developers can integrate PWAs easily, enabling access to native features of the operating system. PWAs can be packaged as standalone desktop applications, compatible with multiple platforms.

Yet, electron uses Google’s V8 engine under-the-hood. Which draws complications when sites don’t work as intended on Firefox which ships it’s own JS engine. Microsoft’s Teams is one such example: it fails to run certain calling-features when you use Firefox. But, if you change the useragent to chrome or edge it’d magically start working.

Discord: spyware

Discord’s desktop client was caught recording running system-processes and it gets uploaded to their servers. One can technically ’turn it off’. But since it is a proprietary app there’s no way to see if it’s true.

By running Discord via their web app or let’s say, for convenience: as a PWA you can limit it from tracking you / opt-in to use your mic/camera when you need to.

You can also containerize PWAs into their own profiles

Limit cookie tracking, have your social-media profiles and professional accounts separated. uBlock Origin and any of your addons run in any case. Since this is basically a full-screen browser without letting you restore from full-screen.

Replicate PWAs on Firefox

The --kiosk flag let’s you run Firefox in full-screen mode, restricting access to browser controls, tabs, and settings (technically). This feature is commonly used in public displays, information kiosks, or any scenario where you want to create a dedicated and immersive browsing experience for users.

PS: You can still move-around-using keyboard shortcuts like CTRL+T to open a new tab.

Try it!

$ firefox --kiosk ""

Step 1: Creating a .desktop shortcut

$ touch ~/.local/share/applications/element-web.desktop

Note: The path might vary, depending on how you installed Firefox. If you use the Firefox flatpak like me, use org.mozilla.firefox instead.

Step 2: Edit your .desktop file

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Element Web
Exec=/usr/bin/flatpak run --branch=stable --arch=x86_64 --command=firefox --file-forwarding org.mozilla.firefox --kiosk "" @@u %u @@

copy the following ^

Find more such examples in my /dotfiles repository.

Step 3: Save and Launch

When you open Firefox using this modified shortcut, it will run in kiosk mode, occupying the entire-screen and hiding all browser controls.