Home Mozilla Ponders an “Open” Web App Store (Implying that Google Chrome’s Store Isn’t?)

Mozilla Ponders an “Open” Web App Store (Implying that Google Chrome’s Store Isn’t?)

A post on the Mozilla blog yesterday has the company, makers of the Firefox Web browser, pondering the creation of an “open” Web application store and imagining what such a store should look like. Although the musings come across as a bit “me-too”-ish considering that Google just announced its own Chrome Web Store earlier this week, it’s hard to argue with the principles Mozilla sets forth. An open Web app store should “exclusively host web applications based upon…other widely implemented open standards in modern web browsers,” reads the post. It should “be open and accessible” and “set forth…guidelines and processes that are transparent.”

Of course it should. But the subtext here is that Mozilla is proposing a Web App Store that’s open, as if Google is not doing the same. But is that the truth?

Chrome Web App Store

Granted, we don’t know much about the Google Chrome Web App Store beyond what’s been officially announced. But what we do know so far is that it doesn’t sound like an exclusionary venture on the search giant’s part meant to only highlight Google products or those designed just for the Chrome browser.

In fact, on the www.chrome.google.com/webstore page, the top item in the Q&A section clearly reads: “Because web apps listed in the Chrome Web Store are regular web applications, built with standard web tools, they can be used by anyone using a modern browser that supports these web technologies.” The second item continues to address this same issue, explaining that Web apps listed in the Chrome Web Store are just “regular applications that are built with standard web tools and technologies.”

In other words, Web apps work on the Web. And that means they work in Firefox, too.


As it turns out, Google does have an extra little trick up its sleeve. Included in the preliminary developer documentation, available here, are instructions on how to make your Web app “installable.” This extra functionality comes by way of the Chrome .crx file, a special kind of ZIP file that is also used to package extensions for the Chrome browser. By bundling a Web app into a .crx file, users will have a better experience with the app when using the Chrome browser. This is due to several reasons: It only takes a click to install the app, the app gets a big icon in Google Chrome’s app launcher area, and there’s some integration with the host OS. Simply put, installable apps are “special.”

And that is a Chrome advantage, something that probably concerns Mozilla.

More Suggestions: Check, Check and Check

As to Mozilla’s other suggestions?

  • Ensure that discovery, distribution and fulfillment works across all modern browsers, wherever they run (including on mobile devices)

– With apps built using standard Web technologies, that should not be an issue.

  • Set forth editorial, security and quality review guidelines and processes that are transparent and provide for a level playing field.

– We don’t know precisely how Google will manage the Web App store but if the Android Marketplace is any indication, this shouldn’t be a problem either. Google is not Apple. The company seems to prefer an open marketplace where any developer can build apps without worry of app store rejection letters. Plus, the company already describes the Chrome Web App store as an “open marketplace” in its documentation, the implication being that it will run this marketplace like it does Android’s.

  • Respect individual privacy by not profiling and tracking individual user behavior beyond what’s strictly necessary for distribution and fulfillment

– Despite all that Google knows and is able to track about its users, it does appear to consider privacy important. The company released a Google Dashboard that allows you easy access to the settings of all Google services, for example. It lets you opt out of advertising and lets you save those settings in your browser. It supports the NAI Opt-out Tool which lets you opt out of behavioral advertising. You can opt out of Google Analytics tracking. It was the only company to say no (out of 34) when the DOJ sent out subpoenas requesting details about users’ queries. That’s not to say it hasn’t stumbled – the Wi-Fi payload data collection for Street View and Google Buzz debacle immediately come to mind. But these appear to be more like miscalculations and mistakes than actual pre-planned malicious endeavors.

  • Be open and accessible to all app producers and app consumers

– That’s easy enough. All developers are invited to submit apps. The apps are simply Web apps that run in any browser – that’s accessible enough for consumers, isn’t it? No word yet on whether users from other browsers can actually browse the Chrome Web Store itself, though.

With the above principles in mind, what is Mozilla proposing that Google isn’t already attempting to do? And if the company thinks this is something developers want, why isn’t it just doing it already?

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