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Mozilla Announces Platform-Independent App Store

Mozilla Announces Platform-Independent App Store
By Barry Levine

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The Marketplace is one component of the new Mozilla Web App platform. The Marketplace will be open for developers' submissions at the Mobile World Congress next week, and will be accessible to consumers and businesses later this year. App categories in Mozilla Marketplace will include games, media, music, productivity and other areas.
 


A marketplace with apps for a variety of platforms. That's the vision of a new Mozilla Marketplace, announced Thursday by the non-profit maker of the Firefox browser.

The apps available in the new Marketplace will not be platform-specific, as those in Apple's iTunes App Store or Google's Android Market are. Rather, it will feature apps that use open Web technologies, such as HTML5, JavaScript, CSS and Mozilla-proposed Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for rich media apps. The organization said that users will be able to purchase an app once, and then use it on any HTML5-enabled device, across operating systems.

'Biggest Playing Field Imaginable'

"We are enabling the Web to be the marketplace, giving developers the opportunity to play on the biggest playing field imaginable," said Mozilla Chief of Innovation Todd Simpson, in a statement. In Mozilla's approach, the Web itself becomes the platform.

The "write once, deploy everywhere" vision has been tried more than once before, such as with Java-coded client applications and Web-based hosted applications. Mozilla said that its approach will provide open and flexible billing options, and that the use of Web standards will "massively reduce the cost of creating, versioning and maintaining applications."

Both Apple and Google have been backers of HTML5 technologies, but have so far avoided creating a venue for apps to run on others' platforms.

The Marketplace is one component of the new Mozilla Web App platform. It will be open for developers' submissions at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, and will be accessible to consumers and businesses later this year. Categories will include games, media, music, productivity and other areas.

The other two major components are proposed APIs, and a new identity system. The APIs will be submitted to the W3C standards body for approval, and the identity system is intended to tie apps to users, not to devices or platforms.

Boot to Gecko

The identity system, named BrowserID, will provide an open credential system that is not allied with those from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter or others. A key difference is that users would not need to share their data with other sites or services just to log on or to click a "Like" button.

While Mozilla is creating a venue for any standards-compliant platform, it is also getting into the platform arena itself. Its open mobile operating system for smartphones and tablets, called Boot to Gecko or B2G, is expected to be shown soon. Gecko refers to the rendering engine in Firefox, which will also drive B2G.

B2G, being open source like Google's popular Android OS, is being compared to that platform. But industry observers are noting that B2G will have modular layers, with a low-level kernel, a rendering engine, and a user interface, any of which can be used -- or not -- by developers.

Mozilla has indicated that an unnamed OEM will be demonstrating B2G on a demo device, with a custom interface, at the Mobile World Congress.
 

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