Mozilla confirms an app store is on the way

Along with its audited financial statements indicating a revenue increase of 34 percent last year, Mozilla late last week also published a "State of Mozilla" report providing a glimpse at what the organization is planning for the future.

Firefox for Android is one part of those future plans, of course, and will be released "in a few months," according to the report.

Even more intriguing, though, is the company's confirmation that it's planning what it calls an "Open Web App ecosystem"--also known, in other words, as a platform-independent app store.

Device-Independent

"The current app model has traits that threaten some of the characteristics that have made the Web so vibrant a platform, particularly in the mobile space," Mozilla explained in its report.

Specifically, "apps are often device specific and platform specific," it said. "Information we create in an application is stuck in that application and / or that platform. One doesn't join a unified whole as one can with the Web. App-related information isn't generally linkable or findable. In addition, developers often need to get permission from one or more gatekeepers to reach people--from a network operator, a device manufacturer, a 'store' operator. Similarly, consumers must go through these filters to access new functionality."

As a way to remedy such problems, Mozilla has designed a prototype of an Open Web App ecosystem, it says, noting that "this includes a system design, technical documentation and examples of what such a system would look like and work like." A video on YouTube offers further explanation.

HTML5, CSS and Javascript

Taking inspiration from the success of Apple's App Store, of course, Google has been working on its own Chrome Web Store as well. Mozilla also mentioned similar plans back in May.

"Supporting the needs of Web developers in their efforts to develop websites and apps that aren't bound to a specific browser and work across the Web is core to Mozilla's public benefit mission," Mozilla wrote back then.

Accordingly, an open Web app store should "exclusively host web applications based upon HTML5, CSS, Javascript and other widely-implemented open standards in modern web browsers - to avoid interoperability, portability and lock-in issues," it explained.

Such a store should also "ensure that discovery, distribution and fulfillment works across all modern browsers, wherever they run (including on mobile devices)" and "set forth editorial, security and quality review guidelines and processes that are transparent and provide for a level playing field."

Finally, an open Web app store should "respect individual privacy by not profiling and tracking individual user behavior beyond what's strictly necessary for distribution and fulfillment" and it should "be open and accessible to all app producers and app consumers," Mozilla wrote in May.

Too Many Apps For That?

App stores are becoming a ubiquitous part of the Internet; in addition to Apple's longstanding offering and the planned entries from Google and Mozilla, there are also app stores from Research In Motion for the Blackberry phone and from Microsoft for Windows Phone 7.

Then, too, there's Apple's Mac App Store for desktops and Google's assortment for Google TV, among others.

Few, however, can boast Mozilla's commitment to openness and open standards like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Google's Chrome store notwithstanding, it seems to me that amid all these platform-specific offerings, a device-agnostic store is just what we need.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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