In 2020, Microsoft confirmed that it has been exploring support for
protocol handlers for progressive web apps (PWAs) to improve
the overall experience on Windows 10.
The feature is currently available for testing behind an
experimental flag “Desktop PWA URL handling” in all builds of
Edge/Chrome. Once approved, web apps will be
able to register themselves as handlers of custom URL
protocols/schemes using their installation manifest.
In other words, this will allow Google Chrome or Microsoft
Edge-based web apps to appear in a new “Open With” dialog box
alongside the traditional Windows 10 apps when you click on a
URL protocol, such as mailto://, ms-word:// or web+music:/.
In a Chromium
post, Microsoft noted that the current implementation of
the experimental web app handlers relied on the integration
between the browser and OS to register new protocols with the
OS. As a result, the “open with” dialog appeared inside the
“This creates an awkward experience since only the first app
registered looks “native” to the user and subsequent apps lose
that nativeness by having the browser be registered in all
Windows surfaces for protocol handling management,” Microsoft
explained in the new documentation.
Microsoft is now exploring a new approach that involves
additional app registrations with the OS so that every PWA
installed has its own registry associations at a registry
level. To facilitate this new behaviour, Microsoft will
completely separate the browser protocol registration from app
protocol registration on Windows 10.
“This will allow multiple apps to register to handle the same
protocols on Windows,” the company noted.
As you can see in the above screenshot of the “Open With”
dialog box, Microsoft’s new approach towards web apps protocol
handlers will also enable support for multiple profiles, such
as Personal and Work.
“In terms of UX, this provides a much more streamlined
experience for customers since apps are now completely handled
on the OS side, and can be disambiguated against the browser,
other Win32 apps, other web apps and itself (if installed in
multiple profiles) at the same time,” Microsoft noted.
The above dialog box would be visible when you’ve multiple apps
installed for the same URL protocol. For example, if you open
click on a protocol “web+music://songid”, this will allow you
to choose between the web app or desktop app to play the song.
The web app will launch automatically instead of opening a new
tab in the browser if there are no other apps registered for
In addition, Microsoft is also working on a new
post-installation pop-up for
Chromium Edge-based web apps to enable a native apps-like
experience on Windows 10.