Mozilla opens doors to Marketplace for HTML5 apps

Developers can start submitting apps to the Mozilla Marketplace store, which lists apps that use HTML5 so they will work on a variety of devices, including the upcoming Boot to Gecko mobile OS
Written by Ben Woods on

Mozilla has opened the doors of the Mozilla Marketplace for developer submissions, paving the way for deeper integration of apps with its upcoming Boot to Gecko mobile operating system.

Brendan Eich

Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich has announced the Mozilla Martketplace is open for developer submissions. Image credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET News

The open-source project began accepting submissions to the app store on Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The marketplace is intended to work across desktops, phones and tablets, and on multiple platforms. It is part of the project's Mozilla Web Apps platform push to provide an 'open web app ecosystem' where people will be able to find and use an app without being locked into one company's internet environment.

As part of this, Mozilla has built the store to work with apps that use HTML5 so they will work on a variety of devices, rather than creating a proprietary app store that hosts native apps for a specific platforms, Brendan Eich, Mozilla's chief technical officer and the creator of JavaScript, told ZDNet UK.

According to Eich, the apps in the store will be curated. However, Mozilla will try to walk a fine line between the permissiveness of the Android Market — which has raised some security concerns — and the comparatively restrictive submission process of Apple's iOS app store.

"We like community curation," he said in an interview at MWC. "The idea is to have review and curation by a large community, not just a paid staff. If we keep that broad and fair and transparent, I think that will work well."

"We have very few restrictions. You can obviously have your app in all the stores; you can link back to your website," he added.

App security

While Mozilla is aiming for openness in the app store, it is also aware of the need to balance security with that accessibility, for users and developers alike, according to Eich.

"Is that strictness [of Apple's submission process] helpful to security? Probably somewhat, but in a fairly blind way of catching intentional malware that's cleverly done. But on the other hand, Android seems to have more pitfalls and security problems," he said. 

The use of HTML5 means developers can create native-like experiences based on existing apps, such as Angry Birds or The New York Times news app. In addition, however, it can also be used to allow apps to plug into a handset's core functions, for example, so developers could create a battery monitor app, camera app or even a phone dialler, according to Eich. At MWC, Telefonica and Mozilla said they are working together on an Open Web Devices mobile platform that will lead to HTML5-based phones running on the web.

As well as delivering HTML5 apps to any internet-connected device, the Marketplace plays a part in Mozilla's plans to deliver its own web-based operating system, called Boot to Gecko (B2G). The upcoming HTML5-based mobile OS uses the same Linux kernel as Android, but does not have the Dalvik Java virtual machine (JVM) or equivalent middleware. In addition to the Gonk kernel layer, it has the Gecko rendering engine and the Gaia user interface, and is expected to arrive in products before the summer.

Payment structures

Eich noted that other app stores, which attract millions of customers, have inconsistent payment structures for developers. While Apple takes 30 percent of app revenue, other marketplaces take less.

"I don't actually believe we have a split, but [Apple's] 30/70 is not very much [for developers]," he said. "If you do that, you make it possible for other people to have stores that take less and compete with each other on that basis. But then you [risk] going too low, like the Chrome app store, which I believe takes five percent, but hasn't been a successful store.

"So we have to think carefully about this because there are trade-offs. But monetisation is, along with discovery, what I think the web needs in an open centralised way," he said.

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