WebView CG - First call

20 April 2022


Ashley Gullen, Chris Needham, Francois Daoust, Hyojin Song, Ivan Herman, Jiasheng Wu, Martin Alvarez, Peter Beverloo, Qing An, Rayan Kanso, Thomas Steiner, YuanYan
Qing, Rayan

Meeting minutes

Round of introductions

QingAn: from Alibaba. Co-chair of the CG. Co-chair of the MiniApp WG/CG.

Rayan: Co-chair of the CG. Work at Google. Embedded Web in Android team. WebViews, Web APKs, etc.

Peter: Engineering manager at Google, same team. Worked on Push Notifications previously at W3C.

Ivan: Part of the W3C team. Staff contact for the EPUB WG. One of the big user communities for "WebViews" is the digital publishing community. Trying to get people developing EPUB readers to join the group.

Jiasheng: Working for ByteDance

Martin: Work at Huawei, helping with MiniApps standardisation. My background is technical, and I was running the W3C Spanish office.

Ashley: one of the founders of Scirra, game engine software. How WebViews work is relevant to how games work.

Thomas: At Google. Did a lot of research on MiniApps and WebViews.

Yuanyan: At Alibaba, working at WebViews

Hyojin: Working at LG [background noise]

Chris: BBC. Chair of the Media WG and Media & Entertainment IG. We produce a lot of media apps running on embedded systems.

QingAn: Thanks all for the introductions. Very glad to have a diverse set of participants and perspectives represented in the group.

CG charter - scope and objectives

QingAn: Understand and reduce the issues that arise from the use of WebViews to render Web technology outside a Web browser.
… Mobile, TV devices, etc.
… At first, we will identify the usage scenarios.
… Also important to identify the issues behind these usage scenarios.
… Then evaluate whether these issues can be addressed through improvements of the web platform.
… Last but not least, raise awareness about the impact of WebViews to different W3C groups.
… Out of scope: we will not discuss the specific solutions that could solve identified issues. That should rather be done in a second phase of the work.
… We want to deliver a draft report on WebView use cases and limitations by TPAC 2022, to be published shortly after.
… There can be dependencies and liaisons with a number of other groups. MiniApps comes to mind, also WebAppSec.
… Charter includes sections on process, transparency (we'll work in public), and mechanisms to amend the charter.
… Questions or comments regarding the CG charter?

Group logistics

QingAn: First thing to determine is frequency and time of calls. This time is not suitable for West Coast. Chairs propose to alternate 7:00 UTC and 14:00 UTC calls to share the pain, with one call every two weeks.
… This means our second meeting would be May 11th 7:00 UTC.
… Next one after that would be May 25th 14:00 UTC

QingAn: GitHub repository for the Usage and challenges document is at https://github.com/WebView-CG/usage-and-challenges
… Again, goal is to publish v1.0 of that document by the end of the year.
… Anyone is welcome to raise issues in this repository

Template to collect use cases and requirements

Use case and Issue Template

QingAn: Different sections: submitter(s), motivation, stakeholders impacted by the use case, an analysis of the use case, possibly related W3C deliverables or work items, and an analysis of how the issue is solved in the browser and what is missing.
… To explain the template, I would like to present and discuss one concrete use case.

Load a WebView page use case

Load a WebView page

QingAn: Very common to use a WebView in a native app, but the current issue is that loading of a WebView page is quite slower than loading a native page.
… I posted two examples, one done with WebView and another one done natively. You can see the difference of user experiences in both cases.
… Typically usage scenarios: going to a product page, switching to a web game, etc.
… Loading the page very quickly is an important factor to keep the users engaged.
… Stakeholders: WebView providers, WebView users, and also the end users
… Analysis: the white screen is due to serial execution of the loading of the WebView page. The diagram illustrates the different steps.
… Some related W3C works: Resource Hints which defines prefetch mechanisms for page resources, and Preload.
… Both specs are pretty well supported in browsers.
… However, they are not currently supported by WebViews.
… What's more? We think it's also about pre-requesting the data. Take the e-Commerce app as example. Product list and product info. The data is commonly described through some JSON or XML structure. If the data could also be pre-requested in parallel with the page or other prefetch operations, the performances for loading the WebView would be much better.
… Are there questions and comments on this first use case?

Peter: How would you like the group to discuss this use case? How to integrate it in the report in time for TPAC?

QingAn: We can first discuss whether that use case makes sense from the perspective of WebView renderers.
… And whether this can be solved through WebView improvements or some other way.
… We can also indicate in the use case when some other way, e.g. that combines WebView and native, should rather be used.
… At the same time, will work with W3C team to start a new spec page to collect mature use cases.
… Rough mechanism: discuss in issues first, then if we have consensus, we can move to the document.

Francois: To integrate a use case in the document, I note that the group will need a spec editor.

QingAn: Agreed. I can give a first shot at it but we'll need a volunteer.

Group discussion

Hyojin: Thank you for sharing the overall status. I'm wondering what kind of topics or subjects this group could address. You provided some example on performance enhancement. Other topics could be discussed with involvment from other stakeholders. Which topics are you planning to address?

QingAn: At first, we don't want to narrow the scope for this group too much. Any device (e.g. mobile, TVs) that make use of some form of WebView are more than welcome to participate and raise usage scenarios.

Rayan: I wanted to second that. Call to action for everyone to submit all ideas to GitHub so that we can categorize things, and organize further discussions in the group for next meetings.

Hyojin: Thank you, I will provide use cases for consideration by the group on GitHub.

Ivan: Just to be clear, I am not a technical developer for epub readers. We have put a lot of work towards cleaning up what epub is. We did hit a few specification issues on the way, things more directly related to security problems for instance.
… For instance, an epub can be viewed as a frozen web site. That means that all of the security model, same origin policy, etc., are a bit unclear in such contexts.
… Things such as absolute URIs, root URIs for your files, etc. We did solve these in the specs but it was painful and it is not perfect.
… I can try to convince my colleagues who work in this to raise issues along these lines. I just want to be sure that this is indeed in scope.

QingAn: I remember that during our last TPAC, we had some initial security discussions of WebViews. Best would be to kick discussions off with a first use case along these lines on the GitHub repo, so that we can continue that discussion.

Peter: I think that the epub issue is a very interesting one. If we were to draw a line between solutions such as WebBundles, and embedded solutions, this group would be more focused on the latter.

QingAn: For instance, many epub readers disable scripting because people are scared of security issues, so major area.

Next call

QingAn: Next call will be 11 May 2022, 7:00am UTC.

Minutes manually created (not a transcript), formatted by scribe.perl version 185 (Thu Dec 2 18:51:55 2021 UTC).