Integrating App Payments

Scott DeVaney

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money_imageToday we’re featuring a guest post from Andy McKay, Engineering Manager for Firefox Marketplace. He’s got some exciting news to share about setting up payments for your apps…

The Firefox Marketplace now accepts payments for apps and in-app payments. This allows developers to earn some money from their work.

Currently we’ve got just one payment provider who is integrated into Firefox Marketplace, the great team at Bango have been integrating credit card and carrier billing. But we don’t want to stop there, we’d like to have lots of options for different payment providers that meet the different consumers and developers needs.

Implementing payments for the Firefox Marketplace is a little different from any other site because, unlike most implementations, Mozilla does not look after holding money and paying developers, the payment providers do. This creates issues for payment providers who don’t normally operate this way.

To explain how we do things at Mozilla, we wanted to write a specification of how to integrate with the backend. But writing specifications is no fun, writing code is more fun. So we wrote a sample backend for payment providers, it’s called Zippy.

As it turns out writing Zippy gives us a bunch of other advantages:

* Tests can now be run on the entire payment flow from start to end without having to spend real money. This testing sandbox is something many payment providers do not provide.
* We have real HTML, JS and CSS for the payment pages so payment providers don’t need to implement it, just integrate our code.
* We can use the Mozilla localisation teams to provide localisations.
* Payment providers now have a working implementation they can poke and prod and examine.

Here’s an example of a payment using the Zippy backend, in French:

So if you are payment provider and wanted to integrate payments with the Marketplace, all you have to do is implement the Zippy API on your end in what ever language or platform you like. It’s not intended you’d ever use Zippy as is, rather implement the same REST APIs. We’ll need to enable you as a payment provider in the Marketplace, so you’ll want to speak to us before you start doing work on it.

The code is available under the MPL, is written in Node.js and is the hard work of David Larlet, Stuart Colville and Kumar McMillan. It is in the early days right now, at version 0.1 and I am sure there are lots of new features to come.

Great Utility Apps Lend a Helping Hand

Jenny

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The beauty of our mobile world is that we have so much useful information at our fingertips—and Firefox Marketplace is a great resource. Are you interested in photography? Travel? Music? No matter what your passion, you’re likely to find an app on Firefox Marketplace to help out. Below are just a few examples.

For Students of Music

There’s no need for music students to buy a metronome anymore; you can have one on your phone! Metronome is simple: Choose the number of beats per minute and the time signature. Toggle the sound on or off. You can also tap the beat you want and adjust the metronome that way.

Easy Chords can help aspiring guitarists, who have to memorize the finger positions for many chords. The screen displays a grid that represents the guitar strings and frets. Three buttons let you 1) choose the chord; 2) make it sharp or flat; and 3) change it to major, minor, or 7. And for bass guitar players, check out Bass Notes. You’ll be strumming away in no time!

Reading, Writing, Communicating

Mañana lets you save for tomorrow interesting articles you find but don’t have time to read today. Mark an article you’re interested in and add it to your home screen, so it’s easy to find when you have the time to read it. You can also tag and share articles with friends.

FireText (made just for Firefox OS) is a word processor with lots of great features. Formatting options include alignment, bold, italics, and strikethrough. You can also insert images, links, bullets/numbered lists, and tables.

Translator is a handy app for when you’re traveling—in person or around the web. It’s a quick and easy way to translate words and phrases to or from more than 60 languages, from Afrikaans and Basque to Welsh and Yiddish.

Taking Care of Business

FacturaPro is a cloud-based management system. It offers users a way to keep track of stock control, orders, invoices, payments, receipts, and more—all without having to download software.

Of course, your business might be photography. In that case, ShotClock, a sun angle calculator for outdoor photographers, is the app for you. Select your location and you’ll see a map with the angle displayed. You can calculate what the angle would be at different times of the day (with a slider) or a different date (with a calendar).

What are you interested in? Take a wander through Firefox Marketplace, and see what you discover.

 

(Photo credit: Giacomo Ritucci)

Building Community with Developers

Jenny

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Earlier this month, 34 participants from 11 countries* came together in our Paris office for a Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) “Work Weekend.” And work, they did—finishing 23 projects, touching 400+ bugs … and, bien sûr, enjoying a lot of great French food.

This kind of community teamwork—tackling everything from infrastructure and content to technical documentation—helps Mozilla thrive.

A Strong Developer Community

“Mozilla’s mission is to make sure that the web is accessible to everyone, and we see developers as our partners in accomplishing that,” says Stormy Peters, head of Developer Relations. “They create the content for the open web.”

Developers who make up the Mozilla community include open source and open web enthusiasts. The community creates resources for everyone; for example, MDN is a place to learn about the web and to get help.

“And for those who get more involved, our community provides an opportunity for recognition and a chance to teach—the same benefits you get from volunteering,” Stormy says.

Community Events

Mozilla’s engagement with the developer community happens at events around the world and takes many forms:

  • Mozilla staff and volunteers speak at industry events.
  • Mozilla’s Developer Relations team sponsors events to promote open source and open web technologies.
  • Mozilla hosts workshops to help app developers improve, finalize, and publish their apps on the open web, including Firefox Marketplace.
  • Community members host casual afternoon or evening events, typically with a guest speaker, to bring together web developers in same region.

… and then there are the work weekends, like the one that took place in Paris. Whether in-person or virtual, these get-togethers help Mozilla continue to promote the open web.

Check out this Wiki for the full list of what everyone accomplished in Paris—and Twitter for some of the comments from participants.

Get Involved!

Would you like to get involved? Click on the “Get Involved” link on the MDN website to join more than 3,400 other contributors. Learn how to make an open web app of your own—and check out some of the community’s great apps on Firefox Marketplace.

 

*France, USA, Canada, UK, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Germany, India, Bangladesh, and Brazil

(Photo credit: Kaustav Das Modak)

A Whole New Dating World

Jenny

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Around the globe, everyone has different ways of meeting people and dating. In some cultures, going out in couples is common; in others, young people tend to go out in groups; in still others, meeting a potential partner is arranged by your family. Word has it that the French don’t date at all—but that’s probably another story. You get the idea: Different parts of the world, different dating styles.

… and then came digital. Now, almost no matter where you are, you can meet and engage with others online and via apps. It’s a whole new dating world.

Will apps permanently change the way people date? It’s probably too early to tell—but they are being adopted around the globe—and in some countries, at least, adapted to suit the culture.

Different Cultures, Different Apps

Globally, the mobile dating market is expected to be worth $2.3 billion by 2016, up from $1 billion in 2011. The most popular apps vary by country. (See stats on Zoosk and Badoo, below, for example.)

A study by Ericsson covering Russia, India, and Brazil found that 6 percent of respondents used dating apps daily.

One in 10 Americans has used an online dating site or mobile dating app themselves, and 7 percent of mobile phone app users (representing 3 percent of all adults) report having used a dating app on their mobile phone (according to Pew Research).

“Thrill,” a dating app that debuted in India in 2013, addresses concerns in that country. In a Times of India article, Malini Agarwal, blogger and founder of social group Friday Club, said, “There is also the feeling that you have to be extra careful, especially when you hear horror stories of rape and attacks. […] Thrill’s ‘he applies she decides’ approach enables women to choose the men they want in.”

In a post about Momo, a popular Chinese dating app, the MobiSights blog commented on dating apps and Chinese culture: “It is common for people to prefer this way of meeting others, as cultural norms make indirect contact more comfortable in Asian cultures.”

Marketplace Apps

Has all this talk of dating apps whetted your appetite? Check out some of the dating apps on Firefox Marketplace:

  • Zoosk is used by more than 25 million people worldwide. It’s among the top dating apps in North America and in Europe.*
  • Duego is available in 180 countries. It’s location-based, to help you meet new people around you.
  • Badoo has more than 180 million users. It’s among the top dating apps in Europe, Brazil, and Eurasia.*

No word on how popular these are in France.

 

*Source

 

Community Has a Voice on Firefox Marketplace

Scott DeVaney

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From the very beginning, one of the key goals for Firefox Marketplace has been to develop an app store with a strong community curation element. We feel it’s in the best interest of both content developers and consumers to offer a truly democratized app discovery experience.

Today we took a small but significant step in making community curation a reality. We just published a page whereby anyone can nominate their favorite apps on Marketplace. Top picks from the community will in turn become featured apps on Marketplace.

For now, community and Mozilla editorial staff picks will be consolidated under the single banner of “Featured Apps” on Marketplace, but we’re working on a new Marketplace design that will present community curated content in a distinct and highly visible way. Stay tuned for more on that in the coming months.

So please go nominate your favorite apps now!

Anywhere, Anytime Music

Jenny

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Today, most people use their phones for much more than talking. We text, use email, surf the internet, download apps—and listen to music. If you take advantage of your phone to enjoy music—or if you’d like to—Firefox Marketplace can help. It has some great apps that will add a little music to your day.

 

World radio

How great is it that you can tune in to radio stations from around the world—all from the comfort of, well, wherever you are?

InternetRadio logoYou can scroll through a list of music genres on InternetRadio or tap the genre bar at the top and search. (Tapping that bar also gives you the option of marking favorites.) Although you search by genre rather than geography, there are two easy ways to find an international mix: First, one of the genres is “International.” I found great guitar music from “RadioPortugal” there. Second, scan the choices under each genre. I found “colombiaromantica” under 80s music and “FolkRadioUK” under—wait for it—Folk music.

World Radio Player logoIn World Radio Player you also search by genre, each of which offers individual radio channels. You’ll see the name of the station and (in some cases) where it’s from. Some of the categories take some investigating (e.g., “Radio” and “Various”), but it’s fun to scroll through those to discover what’s hiding there. For example, under “Hits,” I found French ballads on “Radio Douce France.”

Radio Paradise logoWith Radio Paradise, there’s no scrolling through genres; it chooses the music for you. There’s nothing to do but listen to music. Don’t worry, it has good taste! On my most recent visit, Patti Smith, Zero 7, and Roseanne Cash were first up.

Free music

Of course, radio isn’t the only way to find music. Here are a few more music-related apps:

SoundCloud logoSoundCloud is one of the best-known music apps around. It offers you lists of new music to explore, and you can search for favorites (anywhere or by tracks, playlists, people, or groups). You can “like” music to find it easily later, and you can share music with friends on social media.

8tracks logo8tracks offers a choice of Featured, Hot, and Popular playlists.  Pick one, and scroll through a list of mixes. Each has an image, a title, and tags. Under Hot, I chose “Ah, the rain stopped,” which is tagged as techno, pop, jpop, indie, and feelgood. “PCH before 9” is tagged as California, morning, and good vibes. You have to log in to “like” lists, but then you can build your own fav lists. You can share mixes you like on FB and Twitter without logging in.

Hype Machine logoHype Machine says, “Every day, thousands of people around the world write about music they love—and it all ends up here.” Use this app to see what’s most popular on blogs right now. You can search by genres (dance, electronic, house, pop, rock, etc.) See who posted the song, and follow the links to buy any music that interests you.

SoundTrip logoSoundTrip is all about using music—sounds, really—to relax. When you open the app, you’re greeted with the sound of falling rain. How much more relaxing does it get? There are 12 looping sounds to choose from, including frogs, insects, waves, a river, and even a Roman café!

 

$25 Smartphone? Great Feedback from Mobile World Congress

Jenny

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“Long-awaited”; “impressive;” “extremely disruptive”: These are just some of the comments we’re hearing in the wake of Mozilla’s recent announcement that we are enabling a whole new category of smartphone, priced around $25.

Mozilla—like most of the rest of the world, it seems—has been at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this week. As MWC kicked off, Mozilla made some big announcements, including this one. Below, we share some of the great news coverage it is receiving.

CIO today quotes Forrester analyst Ted Schadler describing the announcement as a “long-awaited move” that will put pressure on such phone makers as Nokia.

VentureBeat quotes Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, that the $25 Firefox OS phone “could be extremely disruptive.”

In a CNET review, Stephen Shankland says, “I toyed with a prototype Sunday at its debut at Mobile World Congress here, and I have to say, I’m impressed–given the price.” He also points out, “It’s not something a rich kid from New Jersey or a businessman from Tokyo would be caught dead with.”

At Mozilla, we’re OK with that, because as Shankland goes on to say, “That’s not the target market.” … “Mozilla, reasonably, tells those who would judge this Firefox OS model that they should compare it to a bargain-bin feature phone with a few built-in apps and a low-end camera.” … “And for that market, it really works.”

Redefining the Entry Level for Smartphones

Many comment on the fact that Mozilla is redefining the entry level for smartphones in key growth markets.

Geek.com says, “There are hundreds of millions of people all over the world who would love to have both a phone and a device that can access the internet, but can’t justify the cost. $25 Firefox phones could be exactly what they’ve been waiting for.”

Ubergizmo makes a similar point: “After all, if you’re shopping on a budget, the last thing on your mind would be whether or not your phone comes with biometric security features, right? In fact the goal of these smartphones is to get people to stop using feature phones and to start using smartphones, particularly that of Mozilla’s own making.”

A Pretty Great Package

So while these phones may not have biometric security features, observers recognize that the overall Firefox package is pretty appealing.

Forbes quotes analyst Rob Enderle of The Enderle Group: “Twenty-five dollars could well be affordable to businesses [in developing markets], not to mention consumers, and that–price–is the filter through which they will make their decision about getting a phone.”

Forbes then adds, “But they are getting more than just a phone. Along with Firefox OS come Firefox Marketplace and an adaptive app search that Mozilla has developed.”

At Firefox Marketplace, we couldn’t agree more.

 

Speed, Freedom, and More: HTML5 and Gaming

Jenny

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As we’ve noted before, industry observers continue to tout the rise in HTML5 popularity and predict that it will continue to gain traction.

HTML5 game developers are fueling the HTML5 momentum by tackling what used to be a major complaint about HTML5 gaming: speed. Today, you don’t have to search far to find advice on how to speed up your games and to read success stories from those who are conquering the issue and making great games with HTML5.

As an example, a few months ago, Ludei announced that its CocoonJS tech will be used in Nickelodeon games to speed up performance on Android mobile devices.

Focus on the Benefits

What’s the best way to take advantage of HTML5 as a gaming platform? In a post on Gamasutra, Austin Hallock suggested that, “Rather than trying to emulate native mobile games with HTML5, we as developers need to develop games specifically for HTML5—taking advantage of the unique offering it brings.” As examples from other platforms, he highlighted success stories like FarmVille, which takes advantage of Facebook’s social features, and Angry Birds, which takes advantage of touch.

What are the strengths of HTML5 that developers can take advantage of for gaming? He lists five: hyperlinks, multi-device use, games everywhere, SEO, and freedom from app stores and Google Play.

Freedom with HTML5

Perhaps the best thing about HTML5 gaming is the freedom to play anywhere.

Mobile use is skyrocketing—and for consumers, improved mobile access makes HTML5 games appealing, because you can play anywhere. You just need an internet connection and a browser.

The freedom extends to multiple platforms, too: You don’t have to have the same device or platform as your friends in order to enjoy multiplayer games.

For HTML5 developers, this freedom means more customers, of course.

As China Goes…

With the world’s largest population and one of the largest economies, China is worth watching for trends.

A recent article in NextWeb-Asia highlights the incredible growth of gaming in China. According to the author, Lei Zhang of Chukong Technologies, the Chinese government estimates that the mobile gaming economy generated almost $2 billion in 2013.

Chukong expects four areas to define the Chinese mobile gaming space in 2014. You guessed it: One of those is the emergence of HTML5 as a powerful platform.

“The platform will claim a significant portion of mobile developer attention, particularly with the focus of game design on analytics and optimization,” the article says.

Speed, freedom, and more: What’s not to love about HTML5 for gaming?

Apps Now Required to Have Content Ratings

Scott DeVaney

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Today we have a guest post from Kevin Ngo, one of the fine engineers on our Firefox Marketplace team. Via his personal blog, Kevin recently wrote about his experiences integrating the new International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system into Marketplace. This content rating system will help users more easily identify age appropriate apps.

Before we dive into Kevin’s mind, app developers please take note: April 15 is the deadline to get your content IARC rated or it will be removed from Firefox Marketplace! To learn more about the super simple process of obtaining your IARC rating, go here.

And with that, take it away, Kevin………

Our little webapp marketplace is growing up so quickly. Over the last past two and a half months, robhudson and I have been working with the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) to integrate their new IARC system into the Firefox Marketplace. IARC is a framework that unifies multiple age rating systems respective to different countries to make it simpler for content creators to obtain a content rating for their products.

For those not familiar with age-based content ratings, they are most popularly known for their use in games and movies, such as Rated M for Mature for Violence or Suitable for Ages 13 and Up. Firefox Marketplace has become the first app store to implement IARC, and as such it was a bit of a new experience for both parties.

For some background, Firefox OS launched in Brazil and Germany in late 2013. Brazil and Germany have strict and legal age rating requirements for digitally-distributed games, with laws requiring self-rating through an approved age rating system (i.e. CLASSIND for Brazil or USK for Germany). Our Marketplace, in order to list the games in those regions, had to display content ratings for those apps. Before implementing IARC, we built a temporary system that allowed our app reviewers to manually enter content ratings for individual games that were only applicable to Brazil and Germany. Now with IARC, developers can obtain content ratings on their own which are applicable to all regions.

Developers are led from Marketplace through an IARC portal where they can fill out a yes/no questionnaire that inquires about the content of their app (e.g. Does it contain violence?, Crude humor?). Although the app is self-rated, IARC will occasionally do spot-checks and manually update the rating. Marketplace app reviewers may also spot any inconsistencies between the app’s rating and content.

Upon filling out the form, developers are redirected back to Marketplace where their content rating will be registered to their app by both Marketplace and IARC. If the developer ever releases his app on another storefront, the rating would conveniently follow that product. When people visit their app’s details page on Marketplace, they’ll be able to read all about the its content rating.

We organized development in this Bugzilla tracking bug. Throughout development, ESRB has been very responsive with communication, in making sure our system was correctly implemented and in ironing out bugs on their side. Currently, the IARC supports the ESRB, PEGI, CLASSIND, and USK rating systems. More will likely follow.

Geo-Targeting: Keeping Developers in the Driver’s Seat

Jenny

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Geographical targeting—allowing developers to choose where their apps are available—puts the developer in the driver’s seat, and Mozilla believes that’s the right road to take.

It’s the developers’ content, and they should be able to choose what they want to do with it. The circumstance of political, legal, and geographic boundaries and of monetary exchange complexities is the reality today and in the foreseeable future. Developers have to work within this context, and we believe in supporting the often unique and nuanced needs of regional developers everywhere.

Today, about 15 to 20 percent of Firefox OS app developers take advantage of geo-targeting. That’s not a large percentage, but it’s significant enough for us to want to address their concerns.

Here are just some of the reasons developers prefer to control the geographic availability of their apps:

  • Licensing or geographical restrictions limit a developer’s rights to distribute content within an app (e.g., videos or characters in a game), and thus she is unable to list her app on the Firefox Marketplace unless she can limit distribution to specific countries.
  • An app is a paid app. (The Firefox Marketplace currently only facilitates payments in certain regions.)
  • An app is relevant only to certain regions, and the developer doesn’t wish to provide language and/or other support for customers elsewhere.
  • A developer is concerned about legal matters, such as liability for copyright infringement, for user-generated content within the app.
  • A developer is concerned about political, censorship, and/or privacy issues within certain countries and doesn’t wish to distribute to those areas.
  • A developer may have maps for different regions in different languages, and due to the size, it’s preferable to divide them up and target certain regions.

A few intriguing hyper-local apps you’ll find on Firefox Marketplace include:

On a related note: We also plan to give hyper-local communities a voice in choosing “Featured Apps” that are best suited for their region. (Stay tuned for more on this.)

Speaking of the driver’s seat, if you’re going to Mobile World Congress  (24-27 February in Barcelona), cruise on over to Mozilla’s booth to see some of the hyper-local apps we’ll be featuring.