Mozilla Championing Open Web Apps Could Threaten Firefox

Mozilla Labs is working towards building a web app system that would let developers deploy apps across browsers and platforms.

By Jim Rapoza, InformationWeek
Oct. 20, 2010

Many people have said that we are now moving from a web of sites to a web of apps. And recent announcements by two major web players seem to be pushing the move to an application centric web.

Mozilla announced on Tuesday a new labs initiative called Open Web Apps. This follows closely on the heels of Google's announcement of a Chrome Store for apps.

Of the two, the announcement that I find most intriguing is Mozilla's Open Web Apps, and yes, it is because of that overused term "open." And that's because, to a large degree, Mozilla seems to really mean it.

One of the biggest aspects of the Mozilla Open Web App ecosystem is their plan to make sure that the apps created this way will run across web browsers and platforms. So that means you could build an app on this platform and have it run on Firefox, Chrome, IE, Opera, Safari and mobile web browsers based on WebKit.

Of course, there have been claims for write once/run everywhere functionality for a long time. But new web technologies and overall better standards support across modern browsers make this type of capability possible, especially if the Mozilla system can smooth out some of the traditional problems with building apps to run on multiple platforms.

The other interesting thing about this plan from Mozilla is that, to a certain degree, it could work against the popularity of Firefox. Right now, the main advantage that Firefox has over some of its competitors is its massive library of extensions. If this Open Web App plan is successful, many things that are built specifically for Firefox could be migrated to open web apps.

There is more to this Open Web App ecosystem than just building an open web application platform. Mozilla is also hoping to do for broad web applications what Facebook and the Apple Store do for developers on those systems, namely make it simple to build and deploy applications and get paid by users who download those applications.

This of course would lead to some kind of centralized account management. But at least the focus from Mozilla is on app portability, so conceivably I could buy an app on the web while using Chrome at home, and be able to use the same app on my iPhone and on Firefox on my laptop without having to repurchase the application.

There will definitely be a lot of issues to be ironed out here, especially in the areas of privacy and security. Looking at Facebook's recent problems with application developers one can easily image a much bigger problem in an open web environment.

Still, these moves towards open web application systems are positive steps and could go a long way towards removing some of the proprietary walled garden systems that now rule, especially on the mobile side.

Copyright C 2009 United Business Media LLC, All rights reserved.


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