Advantages of Open Web Apps

Open Web Apps are essentially no different than standard websites or Web pages. They are built using standard open Web technologies — HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc. — and can be accessed using a Web browser. The main differences lie in their ability to be installed on a device and work offline, and access to advanced APIs that allow interaction with device features such as the camera, address book, and other such things. In addition, they are built on open technologies as much as is possible. Where differences lie in technology implementation between platforms, efforts should be made to ensure that both are supported, through a combination of feature detection and appropriate code for different platforms, and graceful degradation.

Lets look at the advantages of Open Web Apps in a little more detail:

  • Local installation and offline storage: Open Web Apps can be installed on the device, and leverage APIs such as local storage and IndexedDB to provide local data storage capabilities. In addition, open Web technologies tend to have a much smaller footprint than native apps and can generally be updated atomically rather than having to install a complete new package each time theres an update. an exception to this is packages apps, which require a whole new package when updating. Apps are therefore less dependent on an always-on Web connection, and more useful when networks are patchy.
  • Hardware access: The metadata provided with Open Web Apps can be used to grant the application permission to privileged APIs that enable usage of device hardware features, something the Web platform has not traditionally enjoyed.
  • Breaking the walled gardens: The norm for mobile platforms tends to be be walled gardens written with proprietary technologies, so apps are locked inside their platforms. And smartphones tend to be expensive, and require credit cards for app purchases. Open Web Apps tend to be able to run on much cheaper hardware, especially in the case of Firefox OS devices where youve literally just got Firefox running on top of a lightweight Linux kernel. And they are written using open Web technologies, which is the most distributed platform around. In addition, Firefox OS devices feature payment systems where you can simply prepay for apps, or add the cost to your phone bill.
  • Open Web App stores: Following on from the previous point, you can choose to host your apps in an existing marketplace such as the Firefox Marketplace, or host them somewhere else entirely. Its up to you. Mozilla aims to put the developer back in control of every aspect of the app experience — from easy development to distribution to direct customer relationship management. And the apps can be searched for just like any other Web-based experience.

via MDN.

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