Abstract—Nowadays, apps called mobile web application which standardized

Abstract—Nowadays, a large set of mobile applications
are provided in several types, one of these apps called mobile web application
which standardized by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and based on web app
manifest that gives the ability for developers to include metadata information
about the web application into JSON datatype file. This metadata provides the
developers to declare properties that control the behavior of web application
in the device and add restrictions, for example,
specified a labeled icon for web
application when application added to home screen.
This research collected a large dataset of mobile web applications that have
JSON metadata file, these metadata files
have been analyzed to extract some statistical information about the features
and properties that used to provide mobile web application. Also, this research
analyzed some of the sub-properties into
metadata such as (display, background_color, icons, lang, orientation,
permissions, and theme_color).

Keywords—Android, Mobile, Web, Applications,
Manifest, Analysis.

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I.     Introduction

 

Mobile
applications in the Android platform can
be delivered in two ways: as client-side apps
or as web apps.  In the client-side apps, an app is installed
on the user devices in an Android Package Kit (APK) and developed using the Android
Software Development Kit (SDK), in another hand,
web applications are client-server
computer programs in which a client, including client-side logic and the user
interface, runs using embedded web browser 1.

There
are common examples for web applications such as webmail, online auctions,
online retail sales, instant messaging services, wikis and others 2. The
main distinction between a web application and a dynamic web page of any kind
is unclear, however, websites are most
likely to be indicated as web applications which have similar functionality to
a mobile app, or to a desktop software application 2.

In a web application, there are several ways of
targeting mobile devices in the mobile web:
responsive web design and progressive web apps. Responsive web design used for
making a web application, mobile apps or native apps to directly run on a
mobile device. In another hand,
progressive web apps are a hybridization of a mobile application and regular
web pages (websites), in which a mobile website
is embedded inside a native app 3 4.

The web
app manifest contain metadata about an application in a JSON datatype file such
as (name, theme_color, icon, permissions). The
main goal of the manifest file is to store web applications to the home screen
of a device as a site bookmark and act like installable application, also
giving users with more wealthy experience and more quick access 5. web
app manifest gives the responsibility of the developer for controlling the
application appears to the user in
regions that they expect for watching an app, guiding what they can launch, and
determine the appearance at launch. When
a site is launched it has a unique name and icon which users can differentiate
it from other sites, it shows for user something while resources are restored
or downloaded from cache, it gives default display features to the browser to
prevent t abrupt transition when site available and it does all this over the
simple techniques of metadata in a text file, which called the web app manifest
5.

            Web
technologies involve web app manifest as progressive web apps, that can be
downloaded to the device without using
the application store, in addition to
other features like getting push notifications and being available when
offline.

In this paper,
our target is to analysis the manifest.json
file for a large dataset of web apps to extract some useful statistical
information for a set of selected properties. The rest of the paper is
organized as follow: section 2 shows some of related works, section 3 describes
the steps performed to collect and process our dataset, section 4 the
experiments and results and a brief
discussion of them, finally a conclusion and proper future work are represented
in section 5.

II.    Related work

 (Charland et. al, 2011)6, discussed the weakness and
compared between the two types of apps in term of code, user interface code, user experience,
performance, and design.

(Henning
Heitk¨otter et. al 2013) 7 developed eleven criteria to evaluate mobile
web frameworks, the need of developing these criteria is due to the difficulty
of selecting an appropriate framework among aplenty of them. The authors
classified the proposed criteria into two categories; developers and user’s
perspective. Seven of the proposed criteria are from a developer perspective: 
License and Costs, Long-term Feasibility, Documentation and Support,
Learning Success, Development Effort, Extensibility, and Maintainability, and
four of them are from user’s perspective: User Interface Elements, Native Look
& Feel, Load Time, and Runtime Performance. The authors then used these
criteria to evaluate four mobile web frameworks: jQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch,
The-M-Project, and Google Web Toolkit. The results showed that jQuery Mobile is
the best for mobile UI, while Sencha Touch is suitable for mobile web
applications that have high complexity.

 (Serrano et. al, 2013)
8, examined the different
current approaches for developing mobile web apps to help developers making a
correct decision when they need to select an approach, they classified these
approaches into five types: standard
web apps, responsive web apps, mobile web apps, hybrid apps, and native apps.
The authors then provide set of technical and non-technical criteria which can
be used by the developers to help them decide
which type of the above-mentioned approaches will be more suitable to their
situation than the others. The technical and non-technical criteria. The
technical criteria are platforms and version support, device capabilities, user
experience, performance, and upgrade. On another
hand, the non-technical criteria are distribution, approval cycle, and
monetization.

 (Ivano Malavolta et. al, 2016) 9, describe the content of a tutorial for
web-based hybrid mobile applications. The tutorial discusses the problems
occurred when the development and maintenance of the mobile apps are platform dependent (i.e. each platform using different programming language and
tools). Web-based hybrid mobile apps are
the solution proposed by well- known companies such as IBM and Adobe. The
proposed solution enables the developers to use standardized web technologies
and then use cross-platform wrappers and other tools to spread them in app
stores. Many benefits will be gained by using the proposed solution such as the
ability of use cross-platform, exploitation of the existing knowledge of the
developers, simpler, and less expensive. However, on another hand, there are some drawbacks such as constrained access
to the hardware, the differences between user’s experiences, and decreasing in
performance.

(Sheppard
et.al, 2017) 10, provide a good tutorial to how you can add an
app to your mobile home screen and how you can control it using web app
manifest. The authors then provide a description of the properties which can be
controlled using manifest.json file. Because of following the tutorial, a web
app will be as same as possible to its corresponding native app; it will have
launched faster, work as offline apps, loaded faster, and will be lunch from the home screen.

III.  Dataset

The
dataset has been collocated as domain names from “publicwww” 11, which
a website that has a search engine used
to search into source code (HTML) of websites over internet, to cover a big
dataset we have used this query keyword “” which
return the domain names that have “manifest.json” file in their root directory
into a CSV file and we have collocated
19222 domains.

After
that the domain names in CSV file have
been preprocessed into MySQL database using our “read.php” script which store
the dataset into programmer friendly style, the MySQL database has three
columns (id,url, rank), the URL contains the domain name, and rank contains the domain rank over the web from CSV file. Then the list of domain names has
been crawled using “crawler.php” script which downloads
“manifest.json” files and store it into dataset directory with their id value
from the database as a filename.

The
dataset has been reviewed and removed bad results that do not have normal “manifest.json” file structure and the total
dataset for the experiment was 14784 files.

 

 

IV.  EXPERIMENTS and results

 

After collecting and processing dataset the “json.php”
file decoded the dataset JSON files into Array datatype, the code algorithm
count Array keys (property of JSON file) and values for each JSON file, the
result of first iteration that counts the JSON properties from Arrays we found
that 62810 main property in all JSON files which can be seen in figure 1, properties less than 200 have been excluded from figure 1 which have
(y-axis shows properties names, x-axis have the count of each property and each
column have the percent of property in dataset), we notice that most of the mobile web applications have “name” property and
15.3% doesn’t have icons the rest of results displayed in the figure and the
whole table can be seen in Appendix Table 1.

 

 

Figure 1 Main properties

 

After counting primary
properties, we have selected some of these properties to be analyzed:

A-   
display: the
display property has three main types:

I.  standalone: that make application
act like a native application.

II.  browser: make the application act
like a bookmark of the webpage.

III. fullscreen: make the ability to launch the application
on the whole
screen.

IV.  minimal-ui:
like full screen but with less content in the user
interface and minimum navigation buttons.

The results were after the analysis: (standalone:
96.03%, browser: 2.38%, fullscreen: 1.05%, minimal-ui: 0.54%).

B-   
orientation:
in this property restrict the application to specific orientation the results
were: (portrait: 69%, natural: 12.4%,
any: 8.6%, landscape: 6.4%, portrait-primary: 3.4%, landscape-primary: 0.2%),
which indicate that the most of mobile web applications use portrait orientation mode.

C-   
lang: this
property declares the language of application in ISO representation, the most
language with their localization of applications was English around 47% of the dataset.

D-   
permission:
this property identifies the special permissions that the application need from
the device, the most applications around
58.45% uses “gcm” (Google Cloud
Messaging) permission, 19.2% uses notifications permission and 14.61% use the
storage of the device, the rest
permissions shown in Table 1.

Permission

Percentage

gcm

58.45%

notifications

19.20%

storage

14.61%

pushMessaging

2.29%

webRequest

0.57%

webNavigation

0.29%

background

0.29%

tabs

0.29%

cookies

0.29%

webRequestBlocking

0.29%

activeTab

0.29%

Table 1 Permissions

 

E-    
theme_color:
this property serves default color of the theme
in the context of the application, the
result for over 1% was (62.44% for white color, 2.61% for black color and 1.61%
for steel blue color).

F-    
background_color:
this property describes the predictable color of background in application the
result for over 1% was (64.5% for white color, 4.1% for gray color, 2.2% for
light steel blue color and 1.7% for black color)

G-   
icons: this
property represents iconic of application
in mobile with three sub-properties (src:
which identify image file location and all images have src, sizes: describe the
icon size, type: classify icon meta-type).

Size

Percentage

192×192

21.0%

144×144

14.1%

96×96

13.4%

72×72

12.9%

48×48

12.9%

36×36

12.2%

512×512

4.4%

256×256

3.1%

384×384

1.2%

Table 2 icons sizes

 

The results for sizes for sizes that bigger than 1% in
table 2 and for icon meta type the result was (“image/png” has 99.2%, “image/jpeg” has 0.21%, and other types have percentage under 0.2%).

 

 

V.    Conclusion and future work

 

In this
work, we discussed the statistical analysis of metadata mobile web application
files for a large dataset. the results indicate that a lot of applications does
not use all the properties of metadata and a lot of applications have missed
important properties such as icons that have 84.6% of overall dataset.

In future, we plan to study more properties in
deep using data mining models to extract knowledge about metadata manifest.

 

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