Submit once, sell everywhere? Mozilla to open mobile Web app store

In an app-centric world, those who are trying to embrace mobile Web development have to think in terms of stores and marketplaces. Mozilla announced plans Wednesday for its own take on a mobile app shopping experience, one built around the promise that Web applications will bridge the gaps between mobile devices.

There weren’t a lot of details revealed by Mozilla’s press release, but the company plans to talk more about the Mozilla Marketplace next week at Mobile World Congress and will invite developers to submit Web apps. The idea is to give Web developers a prominent place to hawk their HTML5 Web applications. App discovery is a huge problem in the native world, and even though Web applications don’t really need a distribution channel other than a Web site, without a big signpost directing mobile users to Web apps it could be a lot harder for smaller developers to get noticed.

Mobile Web apps offer the promise of being able to target everyone with a single development effort, as opposed to building separate iOS and Android versions of an app (not to mention tablet versions). But right now native apps offer hooks into the phone’s hardware that Web apps can’t quite mimic and most consumers are quite familiar with the concept of stores like Apple’s App Store (s aapl) and Google’s Android Market (s goog).

While Mozilla avoided any discussion of the details, it suggested two ways in which it might try to change that equation: standard APIs (application programming interfaces) that could help developers reach down into the phone, and “a new identity system for the Web that puts users in control of their content, tying apps to the user and not the device or platform.” Stick around for our MWC coverage next week to learn more.

A report in the San Jose Mercury News suggested Mozilla might also be ready to unveil a prototype mobile Web phone based on the Boot To Gecko project announced last year. Google has also tried to plant seeds for mobile Web computing with its Chrome OS hardware, but it’s pretty clear that has yet to make an impact.