All posts tagged ‘webapps’

File Under: Browsers, Mobile, Web Apps

Mozilla’s WebAPI Wants to Replace Native Apps With HTML5

Mozilla has launched an ambitious new project aimed at breaking down the proprietary app systems on today’s mobile devices. The project, dubbed WebAPI, is Mozilla’s effort to provide a consistent, cross-platform, web-based API for mobile app developers.

Using WebAPI, developers would write HTML5 applications rather than native apps for iOS, Android and other mobile platforms.

Mozilla isn’t just talking about WebAPI, it’s already hard at work. It plans to develop the APIs necessary to provide “a basic HTML5 phone experience” within six months. After that the APIs will be submitted to the W3C for standardization.

Among the APIs Mozilla wants to develop are a telephone and messaging API for calls and SMS, a contacts API, a camera API and half a dozen more.

If those APIs sound vaguely familiar it might be because the W3C’s Device APIs Working Group is covering similar ground.

So, why the new effort from Mozilla? Well, Mozilla’s WebAPI is a part of its larger Boot to Gecko Project, which aims to eventually develop an operating system that emphasizes standards-based web technologies. With that end goal in mind, WebAPI may end up somewhat different than what the W3C is trying to build.

It’s also possible that Mozilla simply doesn’t want to wait for the Device APIs Working Group. Mozilla wants WebAPI up and running in a mere six months, the W3C’s Device APIs Work Group is unlikely to move that fast. But “the idea is to collaborate with W3C and all players and together form a good solution, and not just dump it on them,” says Mozilla Technical Evangelist Robert Nyman in a comment on his post announcing WebAPI.

The dream of write-once, run-anywhere software is nothing new and, if history is any guide, Mozilla’s WebAPI efforts may well be doomed. The open source giant does have one thing going for it that most other efforts have not — the open web. Most write-once, run-anywhere attempts have come from companies like Adobe and were built around proprietary frameworks. WebAPI doesn’t suffer from vender lock-in the way some projects have. WebAPI’s main roadblock is convincing other mobile web browsers to support the APIs.

For WebAPI to appeal to developers, Mozilla will need Apple, Google and other mobile browser makers to implement the APIs so that WebAPI can compete with native applications. Before you dismiss that as an impossibility, bear in mind that Apple’s original vision for iOS app development was based around HTML applications, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a company more eager to embrace web apps than Google. Whether either company will devote any resources to implementing WebAPI remains to be seen. But if Mozilla can get WebAPI standardized by the W3C other browser makers would likely support it.

Mozilla’s plans for WebAPI are certainly ambitious, but the company is putting its money where its mouth is — Mozilla is currently hiring several full time engineers to work on WebAPI.

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File Under: APIs, Web Apps

Discover Cool Photo Apps With Flickr’s New ‘App Garden’

Everyone has an app store these days. But of course, for Flickr, the photo sharing site that brought you rainbow vomiting Panda Bears, “store” is far too pedestrian. Which is why Flickr has launched a new App Garden.

The new Flickr App Garden consists of mobile, desktop, and online widgets that interact with Flickr and help you get more out of the site. Flickr already had an extensive list of such apps in its “Services” area, but the new App Garden is considerably simpler and makes find cool Flickr apps much easier.

Unlike the former app directory, which was a simple list, Flickr’s App Garden gives each app its own page where users can leave comments, tag apps and mark them as favorites. The ability to favorite an app means users now have a way to promote their favorites in the App Garden showcase. The app pages also look and feel just like a Flickr photo pages, which makes App Garden feel more like a part of Flickr than the old services directory ever did.

To make it even easier to discover cool apps, Flickr has also included tags on user’s photos which tell you what app the image was uploaded with, and then link back to that app in the new App Garden. If you don’t want others to know how you upload your photos, you can turn off the new tags in your account settings.

The result is that you can stumble across some very cool stuff like Suggestify, an app that allows you to geotag other people’s photos by suggesting a location to the photo’s owner. Following the tag “geotag” then led us to an interesting iPhone app, FlickrUp, which lets you geotag photos uploaded from the iPhone.

So far there’s no way for developers to charge for applications through the Flickr App Garden, though there are some non-free apps listed. Since actually download the apps you want — whether free or not — requires at trip to the developer’s own page, it seems that, at least for now, the App Garden is more a place to browse, not buy apps.

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