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Firefox aims to make HTML5 apps ‘first-class citizens’ with Mozilla Marketplace

by Doug Drinkwater

February 28 2012

Barcelona, Spain – Firefox today revealed at Mobile World Congress (MWC) that it will start accepting app submissions to its Mozilla HTML5 Marketplace next week.

The company, which is behind the Mozilla internet browser, is aiming to launch the HTML5 Marketplace to consumers in the next two to three months, and is confident that developers will start to see web-based apps in the same light as native applications, which are stored locally on smartphones and tablets.

Speaking to TabTimes at MWC, Mozilla’s Mark Finkle, the front-lead for Mozilla Android, said that developers will be able to implement their own payment system, or go through Mozilla’s own payment solution, provided by PayPal. Finkle said that one-time developers will receive 70% of app revenue, with PayPal receiving the other 30% (Mozilla is purely pushing this to 'better the web'), but added that PayPal’s fee will drop to 50% per submission for the first month of the subscription model, and 5% thereafter.

“We’re really aiming to have web apps with the same power of a native app,” said Finkle. “We’re looking to make a better web platform, and better APIs. Apps like Facebook and Twitter are a little bit native, but we say developers should expose HTML5 APIs to become first class citizens.”

Finkle detailed some of the features of the new store, saying that the Marketplace will offer the ability to read offline, and view a HTML 5 app minus the bookmarks and URL sections. He said that the eventual aim is for all HTML, CSS and JavaScript files to be zipped into one folder, so that they can be downloaded locally.

Some of the advances Firefox has made with these APIs are impressive. Finkle showed that, as with a native app, web-based apps will be able to check battery life, store data locally, check notifications and even adjust the tablet or smartphone to vibrate for messages or emails. There’s also a function for the web app to go full-screen.

The Marketplace will work across smartphones, tablet as well as Mac and Windows PCs, although Finkle did admit there are some issues to iron out for APIs to work properly on desktop PCs. Impressively, the Marketplace will run on Chrome and Safari browsers, not just Firefox.

Mozilla was also demonstrating its updated Firefox for Android tablet apps at MWC.  The firm claims to have improved page rendering, and video loading with the new version, with Finkle saying that tests showed videos to load faster on Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone, than on Google Chrome. Mozilla has also included Flash support for the new version, a request from customers.

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