Ahead Of Chrome Web Store, Mozilla Outlines Their Open Web App Ecosystem

Back in May, Google surprised a lot of people by unveiling plans to create an app store for the web, which they called the Chrome Web Store. A day later, Mozilla, makers of rival browser Firefox, stated their plans for an Open Web App Store. Mozilla’s post on the matter was clearly a quick reaction to Google’s maneuver and so there weren’t a lot of details. Today, as the Chrome Web Store opening approaches, Mozilla finally has some of those details.

Why does Mozilla care about Google’s store? Because it has the name “Chrome” in it, obviously. But it’s bigger than that as well. While Google says they’re committed to making their Chrome web apps work in other browsers, it’s not entirely clear how that will be possible for paid apps that will undoubtedly have to be laced with DRM. It also sounds as if the store itself will only work through Chrome, and that app shortcuts will only be a part of the Chrome experience. Mozilla wants to take the idea and open it up, creating a standard that will work regardless of the browser.

Here’s their key blurb:

Today, we are releasing technical documentation of the proposed system and a developer preview prototype that allows you to install, manage and launch Web apps in any modern desktop or  mobile browser (Firefox 3.6 and later, Firefox for mobile, Internet  Explorer 8, Chrome 6, Safari 5, Opera 10 and WebKit mobile). This  prototype provides a simple mechanism to support paid apps and authentication features to allow apps to log users in upon launch.

And here are some examples they’ve created: a web app store, an app directory, and self-published apps. And, in true open form, here’s the source code.

Here are what Mozilla considers to be the key part of Open Web Apps:

  • Are built using HTML, CSS and JavaScript
  • Can be “installed” to a dashboard within your mobile or desktop Web browser, or to your native OS desktop or mobile home screen.
  • Work in all modern Web browsers, while enabling each browser to compete on app presentation, organization and management user interfaces.
  • Support paid apps by means of an authorization model that uses existing identity systems like OpenID.
  • Support portable purchases: An app purchased for one browser works in other browsers, and across desktop and multiple mobile platforms without repurchase.
  • Can request access to one or more advanced and/or privacy-sensitive capabilities that they would like access to (like geolocation) which the system will mediate, giving the user the ability to opt-in to them if desired.
  • Can be distributed by developers directly to users without any gatekeeper, and/or distributed through multiple stores, allowing stores to compete on customer service, price, policies, app discoverability, ratings, reviews, specialty and other attributes.
  • Can receive notifications from the cloud.
  • Support deep search across apps: Apps can implement an interface that enables the app container (generally the Web browser) to provide the user with a cross-app search experience that links deeply into any app that can satisfy the search.

Mozilla and Google have always had an interesting relationship. For several years now, Mozilla’s main source of revenue has been from Google, which pays for placement of their search bar within Firefox. Of course, at first, Google didn’t have a browser of its own to compete with Firefox. Now they do. And it’s growing quickly.

Both claim to be proponents of the open web, but at least here, it would seem that Mozilla is the one taking the more open approach. I’m sure Google will have a reaction to this shortly.

Watch more in the video below — you’ll notice they never mention Google directly.


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