Has Microsoft gone too far with web apps on Windows 11?

Windows 11 Widgets Hero
Windows 11 Widgets Hero (Image credit: Windows Central)

Many elements of Windows 11 are powered by the web, including the entire widgets panel. Additionally, several of Microsoft's first-party apps are web apps, such as Clipchamp and the Teams Chat experience that's built into Windows 11. While web-powered components are growing in popularity, especially at Microsoft, they have critics. Many point to high RAM usage and slow performance as reasons that Microsoft should stick with native apps instead.

In this week's poll, we want to know if you're happy with the direction Microsoft has taken in this regard. The poll was inspired by a discussion sparked on Twitter earlier this month when our executive editor mentioned web apps.

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Web apps provide several benefits, such as unified development across platforms. They also have drawbacks, such as higher RAM usage. Some, such as Twitter, feel native and perform smoothly. Twitter updates its web app frequently, which means that Windows users don't have to wait for a platform-specific update to get new features.

On the other side of the coin, there are programs like Microsoft Whiteboard. When Microsoft converted Whiteboard to a web app, performance got significantly worse. Microsoft Whiteboard has a 2.8-star rating in the Microsoft Store and several reviews mention poor performance.

In our testing, the pen latency on the web app version of Whiteboard is noticeably worse than the previous version. The new Whiteboard drew so much negative feedback that Microsoft announced that it would revert to the previous version.

What do you think of web apps and web-based components in Windows 11? Let us know in this week's poll and in the comments below.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

  • I'm a software developer, and really love the versatility of web apps and the ability to develop once, run everywhere. But, performance is a real issue, every web app is equivalent to a separate browser instance, and in some cases, each window of a same app is a separate "browser" instance. Not everyone has blazing fast computers, we have a whole world of device variety, and the way web apps run and consume system resources today need optimizations and other improvements to be acceptable on every device. In my opinion, only then it will be acceptable to have web apps bundled in a general purpose OS that targets a broad audience.
  • As for the high memory usage, I wonder if that is a result of packaging those apps as "Web Assembly" packages. Supposedly web assembly apps run natively on the machine for the most part, as "mini" virtual machines. And VMs do have overhead memory wise... I need to do research on this... 😁
  • Im just a normal user, but even then, i can also point out a few problems with all this.
    Not many people have $1000 laptops and tablets with i5/i7/i9 and at least 8 gb or more ram to fully run windows 11 as it should.
    Thats also one of the reasons i still use win 10 21H2, even when my laptop is compatible with 11.
    Since all web apps are based on a browser, in this case, Edge, thats at the same time based on Cromium project, opening so many instances and tabs just to have the apps running, its a chore even for a low end gaming laptop, not to mention the low-end ones that are 200-300 US dollars.
    In my opinion, its ok to have apps like Cortana or Teams as web apps, but thats it.
    For the rest, i prefer native app thats regularly updated via store, apps that not only consumes less resources, they can even use more native integration with the OS.
    Im not a developer or designer or even part of the industry, but i can say for sure that web apps are NOT optimized for windows as much as they should.
  • Web apps rely too much on web browser and the performance might not be adequate and poor experience.
    Basic os level applications should be native for ultra fast performance.
    One of the reason I hated modern apps was coz at times even photos apps won't start and close on own and no solution for that except download windows x86 app.
  • yes. Our internet service is not always reliable. Having the computer become a paperweight because connectivity is down is highly annoying.
  • Teams on my surface pro x is painfully slow. I wonder if it's just the arm 64 version. Even my jobs surface go 2 runs it better. Although that's when messages decide to pop in. Usually have to open full teams app to get new messages before they pop in on their own.
  • Web apps are great as a backup option, but yes, native apps should be the priority. Native apps have better performance, security, customization options (generally), integration with hardware, accessibility options, and so on.
  • Depends, if we're talking about apps like VSCode or Outlook web app, they are blazing fast and powerful then I'm happy to have them as default OS app.
    But Teams... definitely no. It's super slow even on a high-end computer. It's just getting a bit better over years but still not at acceptable level.
  • Agreed, Vscode and Outlook are amazing examples of what the technology is capable of when done right, they feel even more responsive than a native app. And in the case of Vscode, it even functions offline, loads and runs smooth even on a low end phone. http://vscode.dev
  • "The new Whiteboard drew so much negative feedback that Microsoft announced that it would revert to the previous version."
    **** Nevertheless they brought it back. With same bugs.
  • It is better now than before. But yeah they sneakily return to it while not everybody is looking and distracted with other things. I notice it since I use Whiteboard app time to time. Still needs work though and they should really stop sneaking updates with this kind of changes that already have negative reactions from before.
  • Try that app on windows 10. Looks extremely rustic. Does not even have minimize or maximize animations.
  • Actually, even in Windows 11 it is like that sadly. Looks and feels rough. Performance seems okay but yeah not as polished as it was when Whiteboard is still UWP.
  • Performance has improved a little bit since the last rollout but it is still not great. It is also missing features from the old version of Whiteboard.
  • Jumped the shark.
  • I certainly see the advantages to developers in build-once-and-run-everywhere. And as a user, I'm fine with that as long as the performance is comparable (a little bit of a hit is OK). However, in looking at the MS strategy, it seems to me it would be in their interest to build native for Windows. Here's why: 1. MS makes Windows, so anything that compromises performance of MS desktop apps also undermines the overall credibility of Windows. If a web app is even slightly less performant than a native Windows app, that means the web app effectively elevates Chrome and Mac OS relative to Windows by taking away what could otherwise be a slight edge to the Windows version. 2. As one of the largest and most profitable companies on the planet, where other software companies may not be able to afford to build multiple versions of the app, MS should leverage that competitive strength to build native for Windows AND web apps for mobile and other OS's, but per #1, they should always ensure that Windows gets the best possible experience. Native apps can lead to better integration with special features that web app APIs might be missing. Take the time to ensure Windows version is always the best version. 3. One of the competitive advantages to Windows (and Mac OS) over Chrome OS is the ability to run fully offline. While web apps can run offline, from a market perception perspective, they feed into the Google argument that productivity is largely done online. Unfortunately, MS doesn't seem to believe in using apps to support their OS (cultural backlash to their anti-trust travails of the past), so I doubt those are compelling reasons to Microsoft.
  • Having the heavy lifting done off device is only getting better and at an accelerated pace, which is impressive.
  • Web Apps aren't inherently bad, it is actually conceptually great since it allows developers to create apps that write once and run everywhere, and I think this is pretty much most of the app platform area headed to. But the issue I find is how Microsoft approached and executed it, and not just as an app but an actual part of the shell which seems have bad execution of it. Remember when there was a huge bug in Windows due to some web-based component on the shell that makes the whole Explorer.exe crashing or not loading properly, and the workaround was to clock back the time before that bug triggered. The issue was that is that component is triggered on server-side, and wasn't after a Windows Update patch, and this is the huge implications if something was pushed that wasn't gone through more serious QA and pushed to production machines even without user knowing about it. That is even bad for IT regarding troubleshooting since it will be harder to find the issue and thus loosing amount of valuable time. This is the precisely why IT wants to control updates since things like this may happen, now the issue are these kinds of server-side changes that slipped through well-known controls. On Windows 11, the Widgets Panel seems to be entirely web-based components that is solely reliant to the internet, no offline capability of some sort. Which is useless on let's say laptop or tablet that may logged in or used without internet. Or some server-side bug or simply being poor at system resource handling like consuming so much memory for such a small functionality. Heck latest Widgets Panel update is laggy and not as smooth to use either. New Widgets though conceptually should be better than Live Tiles but performed so worse that old Windows Vista/7 Gadgets were far better than this. Now before we say "how much useful the computer without internet" seems to forget that there are still productivity and even entertainment use. If you are video editor, apps like Da Vinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere, etc. are all fully functional without internet. Of course, if you need to collaborate, you need one for file share, but that doesn't mean you can't do the job offline as long as you got the assets at hand. Graphic designer, music production, 3D modelling, programming (as long as it is not web-related), photography, etc. are some that I can think of where you can still do things without relying too much if at all with internet. Even entertainment like gaming (single player or local-coop/party games) and music or videos as long as you have a copy offline should work.
  • The irony of "living in 1996".
    XML according to wiki started that very year of 1996 and as we know web integration has been part of the OS from about that time. From Windows 98, the help app was based on HTML/XML. There was even a web version called WebHelp.
    Internet explorer 4 active desktop (HTML) became the standard for start menu until Windows 10.
    Am sure HTML was considered for live tiles in the beginning.
  • Websites, and Progressive Web Applications, are two different things... and i think you know that
  • I suppose it depends on what you use, if it is used just to run software then all is fine, the one problem is Ms trying to force people into having an MS account and have the computer online to set up.
    when I tried out Windows 11 I never used Widgets, but then for that to work a MS account is required, something I would never have again.
    The widget thing MS stuck omn Windows 10 I don't use either.,
  • They should use WinForms!, no that is old, oh! use WPF, not wait.. I mean UWP, no, I know! WinUI 2.0, what? WinUI 3 is here but less features? no? Blazo... MAUI then? with fluent...spinning icons? no? ok WebApp and lets call it a day. Building a native Windows app is not a great experience and you don't know if the investment will pay off or will be axed by the next MS UI experiment.
  • . Net is how Windows App have been written for decades.... Net is still how they are written today. What you're mixing in your post is the package manager used to deploy the App. The classic being a Win32 exe. When Microsoft tried to and in some cases still pushes UWP. As far it not being a "great experience". That really depends on your familiarity with deploying a. Net app.
  • So true. How can developers trust Microsoft won't just abandon the Windows App SDK in 2-3years? Based on previous history, they can't.
  • Would I rather have a native app over a web app, sure! I'm already on Windows, gimme the windows app! But would I rather have a web app over nothing? The choice is obvious there. What it comes down to is the age old legal answer to everything: it depends! Rather than force a yea or nea vote, why not focus on optimization? Why not code-once-compile-anywhere like the Xamarin project tries to achieve? In the end it's all on the developers to evolve computing and innovate. So unless you're gonna bite the bullet and learn how to code something better, quit your whining and be grateful there are options.
  • I am looking through these comments and I am not seeing any real arguments that Windows relies on the web too much. What I am seeing instead is that there are too many bad web apps. Apps that are resource hogs when they should be more lightweight considering that they should be relying on web resources rather than local resources. The problem is not with the web or the fact that it's being relied upon, the problem is with the programming and how the web is being utilized.
  • Web Apps have their place but they're not a replacement for native apps. There's a reason Apple and Google went the native route on iPhones and Android.
  • I like web apps but Microsoft isn't doing enough to encourage developers to develop native apps for Windows. Microsoft should be asking and helping all the streaming services that have apps on XBox to make their apps available for Windows 11. They are already UWP apps. Disney+ did it so it's obviously doable.
  • I am a little worried that Windows will have a majority of apps be Web Apps instead of native. There are a lot already: ClipChamp, Whiteboard, Hulu, Discord, Twitter, etc.. These apps are either PWA's, using WebView 2, or using Electron. I'll make an exception for apps if they are using React Native because it actually runs very well.