On eve of Chrome store launch, Mozilla touts own Web app plans

Slates launch of cross-browser app store for Q1 2011

Hoping to steal a little thunder from rival browser maker Google, Mozilla late Monday said its cross-browser Web app store would launch early next year.

Google is expected to announce the launch of its Chrome Web Store, a Web app marketplace aimed at users of its Chrome browser and upcoming Chrome OS, during a press event later today.

On Monday, Mozilla said its Open Web App Ecosystem would be ready in an "integration release" in the first quarter of 2011 -- the company wasn't more specific than that -- with support for the most popular browsers, an app dashboard to locally manage the programs and stable APIs (applications programming interfaces) for developers.

As it did last October when it released a developer prototype, yesterday Mozilla stressed the "open" part of its app concept.

"The Web needs support for the co-existence of multiple Open Web App stores, and to enable users to use applications from these stores in a consistent manner," said Pascal Finette, director of Mozilla Labs, in a post to the company's blog. "People buy their shoes, food and music from different stores on the Web today, and we see the same need for diversity and choice with Open Web Apps."

Mozilla's ideas for Web apps parallels Google's in some ways: Both are pushing Web applications created using HTML, CSS or JavaScript, and both will use OpenID to log in users to their apps.

Under Mozilla's proposal, Web apps will run in any of several browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari and Opera Software's Opera, as well as in mobile browsers based on WebKit, the open-source engine that powers both Android and Apple's iOS browser.

Open Web apps can be obtained at a store -- and from multiple stores -- or through developers' own Web sites.

Naturally, the Chrome App Store focuses on Chrome and Chrome OS, whose users can add shortcuts to the browser for acquired apps. But Google's made it clear that users of other browsers can use apps purchased from the Chrome store.

It's unclear whether Google will play in Mozilla's app store sandbox. Although Finette said Monday that his company is "actively working with developers of apps and stores," Mozilla has not identified potential partners.

Monday wasn't the first time that Mozilla plugged its app ecosystem close to a similar Google announcement. In May, Mozilla revealed its plans to build an open Web app platform the day after its rival unveiled the Chrome Web Store.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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