Earlier this week, a very good article about closed app stores (aka marketplaces) was published by Seattle developer Casey Muratori: The Next Twenty Years: What Windows 8’s Closed Distribution Means.
This is a long, thoughtful article focused on the new Windows 8 app store that clearly demonstrates the dangers of app stores monopolies, pioneered by Apple with the iPhone then the iPad, with now Microsoft taking a page from Apple’s book and applying it to the tablet version of Windows 8.
Here is a part of Casey’s conclusion, which I fully agree with:
Experimentation on open platforms is one of the primary sources of innovation in the computer industry. There are no two ways about that. Open software ecosystems are what gave us most of what we use today, whether it’s business software like the spreadsheet, entertainment software like the first-person shooter, or world-changing revolutionary paradigms like the World Wide Web. It will be a much better world for everyone if this kind of innovation continues.
This is something that Mozilla is fully aware of. App stores (aka marketplaces) are interesting and useful because they help users discover applications and developers monetize them. But having a monopolistic app store is just really bad for innovation and more generally our freedom. Is is possible to have the positive things brought by app stores (discoverability and monetization) while avoiding the downsides of monopolistic app stores? Yes it is.
Yesterday, Mozilla released a preliminary version of such an open marketplace for Android. It enables users to install Web applications on their Android smartphone, and we’re already working on extending this to our upcoming Firefox OS mobile platform and Firefox on other platforms.
This may sound like a paradox, but one of the key features of Mozilla’s approach is to enable developers to bypass the marketplace if they want to by selling their application directly from their own Web site. Exactly for the the reasons detailed above: openness promotes innovation and freedom.
Like everything Mozilla does, this ecosystem is always open — users have choices and developers have control over their content, functionality and distribution.
If you are a developer, I’m sure you’ll want to know more about the Firefox Marketplace approach. Here are a few interesting links:
- On the Hacks blog: Firefox Aurora Marketplace for Android available now
- Official announcement: Firefox Marketplace Opens Doors with Aurora Release; Developers can gather feedback
- Developer documentation: Develop HTML5 Web Apps for an open marketplace
- Visit the Firefox Aurora Marketplace