When Google first introduced Chrome OS and the idea of "Web apps" last December, the idea made little sense to me. Then, over time, as I became used to it and started playing around with their prototype CR-48 unit, which runs the browser-based operating system, it began to make more and more sense. But still, there was something missing.
Today, Mozilla announced its own Web app initiative and, in just minutes, it makes so much more sense than the vision put forth over the several months since the same idea was first introduced by Google.
To this day, I hear Google say "Web app" and I think "website". There's little, if any, difference. It opens up in a new browser tab, takes up the entire page and functions exactly as a website would. You "install" the app and when you click on the icon, which now shows up on your new tab page, it just opens the URL. Perhaps there's some difference in background functionality or something on the developer end, but for the user, it looks just like anything else.
Mozilla manages, within two minutes, to convince me that Web apps are something completely different and empowering for both the user and the developer. Take a look:
Web apps are no longer websites packaged in a different material, they're objects that can be grabbed with the click of a mouse and rearranged. They can handle my credit card information and keep it out of the prying hands of random merchants. They can lie in wait until the right moment and then interact with third party sites and help to share information in ways that the sites themselves may be incapable of.
Google may have the power of the cloud, but Mozilla appears to have the power of something that users might actually care about - functionality and usability.