If the discourse apps are hybrid apps, which is what it sounds like, it is not exactly the same as a web browser wrapped in an app. Technically the OS’s have something built in called a web view which is similar to a browser, but not the same. Webviews only use HTML, CSS, and JS, so other common languages used on the web like PHP, Java, .NET won’t run. There are also no BOM (Browser Object Model) components such as a “location bar”, cookies, or bookmarks.
On the other hand, hybrid apps can use the Cordova library to access and make use of native device features like the camera, vibration, SQLite Storage, and more. You just can’t do stuff that simply in a traditional web app that runs in the browser.
I developed a hybrid app a long time ago, and am working on another now. I can tell you they’ve come a long way and in many cases are just as useful as a true native app.