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Chrome and Firefox Working Together to Make Web Apps Get Along

The developers of two of the most influential open-source Web browsers are working together on a feature that should make Web apps play together much more nicely. As we covered on ReadWriteHack yesterday, Google’s Chromium engineers announced that they’re working with Mozilla on a framework called Web Intents, the brainchild of Google developer Paul Kinlan. Firefox announced its project last month.

Web Intents, based on an existing capability in Google’s Android mobile OS, will let Web apps express a simple call for an action, like ‘share’ or ‘edit,’ which receiving apps will be designed to use, without either app needing to have specific knowledge of the APIs of the other. This way, instead of having to code for each specific Web app one might want to access, developers can just use these simple requests, which will be built into the browser. The Chrome and Firefox teams are each building this functionality for their own browser, but they’re combining their proposals to use a single API for Web app developers to reach both platforms.

In his blog post explaining the purpose behind Web Intents, Kinlan characterizes the problem Web Intents would solve:

“If I built an image gallery application and I wanted to let users edit an image so that they can remove red-eye from a photo I either have to build an application that edits the images, or integrate with a 3rd party solution. Doing this is hard and stops you from building an awesome image gallery; and what happens if the user has a favorite service that they already use to remove red-eye? Simple, you have a frustrated user.

The goal of Web intents, says Kinlan, is “to allow developers to build applications and services that could work with each other, but not need to explicitly know about each other.” The concept was inspired by Android’s functionality, he says, but “the API bore no resemblance.”

Android has had these same capabilities for a while, which has made life easier for mobile app developers in Google’s ecosystem. With the Chrome team taking big steps to advance its browser, especially by fleshing out its Web app store, Web Intents will be a timely addition to the desktop platform.

Now that each team is working on Web Intents, some pretty interesting code examples are available to play with. Here’s Mozilla’s demo video of how they want the user side of the experience to work:

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