Embed Discourse in a native app?

Our company has native apps for iOS and Android. One of our goals is to bring people back to our apps frequently, and to spend a lot of time in our apps. (The app stores seem to prioritize apps that get a lot of usage.)

We have a pretty solid Discourse forum, but currently we just link out to the forum’s website from the app. iOS users who want to receive forum push notifications then have to download the Discourse app separately. (Android users can receive push notifications directly from the website, which is great, but in that case, they’re still using the website, and not our app.)

We’d like to make the Discourse forum a part of our existing iOS and Android apps, and especially to allow users to receive forum push notifications in our apps, without forcing people to download a separate app or to leave our app to use the forum. (I’m imagining that the implementation would be a web view, much like the Discourse iOS app.)

Is there a way to do something like this today? (I’m guessing not?)

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It is possible, but note:

  1. You will have cookie / login problems at the moment, particularly on iOS, due to the way embedded Safari is currently working in iOS 12 and beyond.

  2. You could certainly consume the Discourse API in the native apps to grab Discourse notifications.

A full in-app webview will be more complicated than simply linking out, and implies more developer support for the native apps.

@sam may have other thoughts.

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On Android the story is quite simple, spinning up a Chrome Custom Tab is super easy and it shares authentication with Chrome. Only big downside and reason our Android team members avoid using the Android app (and that we are considering killing the Android app) is cause opening a Chrome Tab is slow compared to PWA, so people prefer the PWA.

Being Android though you could possibly automate creating the PWA link and all that Jazz from your app which may be interesting.

On iOS the story is more complex due to Apple bugs.

We have the user API key system @pmusaraj will be working on improving per: Delegated authentication for Discourse Mobile app (which also includes adding documentation)

My recommendation here for you @dfabulich is to hold tight for a month or 2 while we redo our protocol and improve documentation.

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How would push notifications work in this story? Would I have to poll? (I’d rather do proper remote pushes.)

I read somewhere that Chrome 72 now support Trusted web activities , which means you can now distribute PWAs in the Google play store. If it works well I think you will have more reason to kill the Android app.

It’s a bit involved, since you need the validation key, paying the Google fee, etc. But it does work.

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Let me give one good reason not to: some people do not have a Google account and won’t have one. If the app would be distributed over F-Droid, it would be fine, but forcing people into Google is not a friendly move.

As long as you ensure that it works with Firefox as well is can also solve

Discourse as an open source application should always prefer open source solutions