Mozilla Wants Everyone to Have a Web App Store

Mozilla today released technical documentation of a proposed open ecosystem for web apps that’s built on standards such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The storefront and apps offered through it will be usable across both desktop and mobile devices that use modern browsers. Although Mozilla is proposing the infrastructure and standards for a web app store, it says that it has no intention at this point to build such a store or distribute apps. Instead, the proposal is being offered to the open source community as a concept for developers to use.

The Open Web App Ecosystem, as Mozilla dubs it, will bring several benefits to both users and developers, the company argues. Paid transactions will be handled with authorization standards such as OpenID, for example, and purchases will be seamlessly transferable between browsers, so that a web app used on the desktop could later be used on smartphone by the same user. Developers can offer apps through their own web storefront and users gain a personalized app dashboard: Here’s the sample one Mozilla is providing today.


If Mozilla’s proposal sounds similar to what’s to be expected from the web app store in Google’s (s goog) Chrome OS, it is and it isn’t at the same time. Both approaches will offer robust web apps, likely paid and free, within an easy to manage browser-based storefront. The key difference is that anyone can run their own web app store with Mozilla’s approach, instead of relying upon a centralized ecosystem. There’s merit in Mozilla wanting to give such power to developers, but by going independent, programmers will lose marketing advantages often associated with a centralized app store.

Ironically, in this age of mobile apps, it’s worth noting that Apple (s aapl) developed a web-app store for the original iPhone in 2007. Even with the iTunes App Store humming on all cylinders, Apple’s web storefront continues to exist for iOS devices. I suspect that with web apps becoming more robust due to evolving standards, Mozilla is preparing itself for the future. But it’s just as likely that Apple, and Google, for that matter, will be just as ready with their own improved centralized web app stores. When that future arrives, will there be room for independent web ecosystems like the one Mozilla is proposing?

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