Experimental add-on allows Mozilla web apps to share services
In a posting on its Labs blog, Mozilla has announced a new version of its experimental OpenWebApps add-on for Firefox. Currently intended for developers and "adventurous users", the add-on allows the easy installation and management of web apps in Firefox and is said to provide "a tightly integrated app experience". This latest version (0.3) adds two new features: Web Activities and App Discovery.
The first of these is based on a concept called Web Intents that was itself inspired by the Intent system in the Android operating system. The purpose is to allow apps to communicate with each other and share services.
Mozilla is working on this project together with the Google Chrome developers, and Google's Paul Kinlan states that the technology "would allow you to build applications using just the functionality you cared about, and then delegate the other functionality to the user's preferred choice of service". The example given is of an application that handles images but does not have editing capabilities. If editing is required, this system would allow another app to supply that function, but without either application needing in advance to "know" of the other's functionality.
The second new feature, App Discovery, is intended to allow users to easily find and install relevant apps whilst browsing the web. If a site visited by the user has an app that is relevant to its functionality, then the user will be prompted to install that app. Currently, an artificial demo is available for the New York Times web site, provided the OpenWebApps add-on has been installed. The add-on is available to download (direct download) from the Mozilla web site.