Mozilla Labs Initiatives For Identity and Open Web Apps

As the Web evolves and Web experiences move beyond the browser, Mozilla is expanding to reflect these changes. Mitchell Baker recently blogged about this. Jay Sullivan also recently published a product vision that articulates how Mozilla will build products that help people “discover, experience and connect on their own terms.”

Integrated platforms (iOS, Android and others) do a good job of establishing a users identity and then allowing them to transact and communicate easily (at least, within the integrated environment).  They also make it straightforward to find content (app stores) and to interact with users inside the same vertical. We believe the Web should have the same (or even better) capabilities, so we are focused on:

  1. Identity: How to identify yourself across the Web, and maintain user sovereignty.
  2. Web Platform: Add capabilities to the Web to make it easy for users to find, transact with, and manage their content.
  3. Open Web Apps Ecosystem: Ensure there is a vibrant and open environment for developers to build content with Web technologies, and for users to experience that content anywhere on the Web.

Identity: Today your identity is most likely fragmented across many websites, applications and social networks. There are trade offs between how much of your identity you want to share and the universe of applications and services that you can utilize, and it may not always be clear how you should manage these trade offs. As we work to help you identify yourself across the Web, we are focused on:

  • Identification and authorization: How you make yourself known to the Web by logging into different websites and apps, and what elements of your data those sites can access.  Mozilla plans to “embrace and extend” existing identity and login providers with our BrowserID project.
  • Control and transparency: You should have better control over the flow of your information online and you should have lightweight, easy to understand ways to set and manage your preferences.  BrowserID makes this a more realistic goal.
  • User at the center: Your online content should be portable across devices and platforms. Web applications should work wherever the Web works and not be limited to any single integrated system. For example, Firefox Sync keeps your browsing history, passwords, open tabs and other data synchronized across multiple computers and Android devices.

Web Platform: Modern browsers based on open standards (like Firefox) enable developers to create amazing Web applications and websites. With Firefox shipping on faster release cycles, Mozilla is rapidly increasing the capabilities of the browser platform, meaning developers can build more and more of their applications using Web technologies.

That said, there is more the Web Platform needs:

  • Device Capabilities: Mobile devices, tablets, TVs, automobiles and many other devices are connecting to the Web. The capabilities of these devices continue to expand and proliferate. We are working, both through innovation and through standards, to export more of these capabilities to the Web. WebGL, WebSockets, support for HTML audio and video, Rainbow and the early Boot-to-Gecko project are great examples of this.
  • Discovery: Users find it easy to discover apps in apps stores. The Web has the potential to create much better discovery mechanisms because it is linkable and brows-able. We are working to enhance search and discovery while browsing (Prospector), using social indicators to aid discovery, and matching users’ intents to allow multiple Web apps to ‘speak’ to each other seamlessly (Web Activities).
  • Transactions: Combining identity with proof-of-purchase (a digital receipt) can make transactions easy and link them to a user (not a device). We are also working to make different types of transactions (free, freemium, paid, subscription, in-app) easy on the Web.
  • Social: Leveraging a strong identity that works across the Web enables users to interact seamlessly and easily with content, apps and other people. This is particularly powerful when that identity can be used across platforms and devices while maintaining a great user experience (F1 sharing add-on).

Open Web Apps Ecosystem: Finally, utilizing all of the above, we want to make it even easier to create and consume awesome Web experiences. To enable this, we are focused on:

  • Open Web Apps Platform: Developers need tools that make it easier to create and monetize consistent and compelling Web experiences across platforms and devices. Mozilla, and many others,  are building the tools and infrastructure that will enable developers and users to harness the full power of the Web.
  • App Store: We are building an app store to create choice and opportunity online. The experience gained with Firefox Add-ons in areas like install flows, ratings, bundles and curation provides the foundation to build an Open Web Apps store.

Many of these initiatives are in their early stages, but are fundamental to an open Web that extends beyond the browser.  You can participate with us, or follow our progress, at the above links and by watching the Mozilla Labs blog for updates.