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Q: Why is Mozilla building an Open Web App platform?
Web apps are becoming a commonly used class of applications - often directly competing with native apps. Web apps offer similar features to native apps and are available through any modern Web browser (both desktop and mobile) from any place in the world. Yet, Web apps lack certain essential features around the user experience, including installation and launch, app discovery, monetization and some platform features, such as notifications and unified search through installed apps. App experiences are usually a tightly vertically integrated (e.g. iPhone/iTunes) with problems such as an opaque approval processes, lack of choice for developers, platform lock-in, high(er) development cost when going cross-platform, etc. Realizing these gaps and issues, Mozilla decided to build the underlying system to enable Open Web Apps - these apps are fundamentally built upon the Web infrastructure.
Q: Is Mozilla creating an Open Web App store?
At this point in time, Mozilla has no intention to build our own store or distribute apps ourselves. We expect to see app stores develop, which will provide access to both free and paid Open Web Apps. Developers will be able to publish their apps on their own sites and, if they choose to do so, charge for them.
Q: How are Open Web Apps different from add-ons?
Open Web Apps are applications produced on and delivered through the Web. Open Web Apps are complete applications such as office applications, productivity applications, image processing applications, games, etc. Open Web Apps run in any modern Web browser (both on desktop as well as mobile). Add-ons are extensions to your Firefox browser, which provide specific functionality to the browser itself.
Q: How will people discover new apps? Will there be recommended apps? We expect that we will see a whole array of directories and stores being developed to aid in discovery. This will be another area where stores will compete with each other. Further - as you can link into apps - a developer can market an app through the established online marketing channels such as keyword advertising.
Q: Will developers need to submit or create a new app?
All developers have to do to make their apps work in the proposed system is to provide a short manifest (as text document consisting of a few lines of JSON code). There is no submission process - the simple existence of a manifest is enough for the system to understand that the particular URL is an app. If the developer chooses to sell her app, she has to add some boilerplate code for purchase verification. We will provide example code and libraries for this purpose.
Q: Will the apps be localized and available globally?
This is completely up to the developer. An app can be distributed globally in exactly the same way you publish a website today - once the app is available through its URL, anyone around the world can access it. It’s up to the developer to decide if they want to localize, provide special features for certain geographies, etc.
Q: What is important about Mozilla’s proposed Open Web App infrastructure?
Apps are fundamentally of the Web; they live on the Web and you can link into them.
- Apps can be published without limitations (on your own site, in directories, in stores), fostering innovation on the store fronts/directories, remove problems with approval processes, etc.
- The system provides mechanisms for identification and authentication.
- You can easily charge for apps, similarly to experiences you have today on the iPhone or Android devices.
- Apps run in any modern Web browser.
- You are not tied to a specific browser, your apps travel with you from browser to browser independent from the underlying OS (e.g. desktop to mobile). For developers, this means that they develop once and can deploy on every device that runs a modern Web browser.