Common misconceptions about Boot-to-Gecko, and the Web

中文版刊登於謀智台客部落格。

Being asked to introduce the Boot to Gecko project to various audiences, I think it’s appropriate for me to write some FAQ here on common misconception of the project, and the Web in general.

Misconception #1: Boot to Gecko is yet another mobile platform for apps.

To run you apps on Boot to Gecko (and any other devices with a browser), you would just have to deliver your apps on the plain old-school Web on Internet.

Boot to Gecko is aim to (re)boot to the web. That is, to bring the Open Web to a level that it could compete with proprietary mobile platforms. To application developers, the Web is yet another platform to develop (you would need to port your apps from Obj-C/Java to HTML5), but the good news is your app would now becomes the cross-platform web app, not B2G Apps, PhoneGap Apps, nor Metro-style Windows 8 Apps, and it’s always available to everyone on every platform, one web address away. It would also make your app free from platform vendor control, since no one owns the Web.

Misconception #2: Phone need to be always on-line to use Boot to Gecko and web apps.

Even though every apps on B2G phone is from a web address, even the home screen itself, offline capability can be easily achieved with HTML5 Offline AppCache technology. It’s something that can be done today, available to many browsers available on both desktop and mobile. The only thing you should take care of is how network dependent your app really is. Even on iOS, Twitter app or Facebook app is useless without network connection. You should define a clear boundary between program assets and online information in your HTML5 app. After all, it’s not just an website anymore.

Misconception #3: Web app is crappier than “native apps” in turns of UX.

This is a notion I strongly disagree. The only reason mobile browsers on devices perform worse than the native app is because the venders of the device did not invest enough effort on it. There is a conflict of interest here. Limiting the capability of APIs accessible, besides permission management issue, is the same thing. At Mozilla, we can show that with proper engineering, mobile browser, or web runtime, can run smoothly as silk on devices and deliver the so-called “native” experiences. Other venders investing the web is also doing the same thing. For devices running B2G or Chrome OS, the native app is web apps, there is no point to make it slow, intentionally or unintentionally.

Misconception #4: Web apps running on B2G is dependent on B2G or Mozilla Web APIs.

Yes and no. If you need specific access like SMS message database or phone dialing, initially B2G would be the only platform that make these features available to you. However, we design these Web APIs with standardization in mind, and work closely with standardizing bodies to made these APIs ready for other venders to implement. Evidently, our Web APIs does not live under PhoneGap.*, Windows.*, nor Ti.*; they are design to be at where it should be, like navigator.* (Sure, as experimental features, they came with moz prefix right now, and usual feature detection is advised).

If you choose other packaged web app solution, then, your web app is depend on it. Forever. Mozilla would like you to develop and distribute apps directly to the Web, and you should.

Misconception #5: Apps on Web are free of charge, developers will never make money out of it.

Yeah, like no one had ever become billionaire because of applications or services they put on the web.

There are tons of way to provide services on the web in exchange for money, surely there are ways to make money with web apps, other than bagging for US$0.99 from users. Sure, closed platform with single distribution “app store” seems effective in terms of delivering revenue to developers (besides having 30% of your money being taken along the away), but Mozilla believes choices matters, and an open platform deliver choices to both users and developers.

Mozilla is also exploring effective distribution and monetize channel for the Open Web, in our Open Web App Project and the Mozilla Marketplace website. The goal of offering choices and freedom is deeply embedded in the feature design, both in browser App API and in storefront, and with user authentication and authorization (which is the scope of the Mozilla Persona project, previously known as BrowserID).

Conclusion

Just like Mozilla did with Firefox years ago, we intend to deliver great product that could influence the market, and let the market influence other venders. No one owns the Web, and no one should. Mozilla is here not to make money or become monopoly, but to bring the goodness to the Web that could drive innovation and opportunities centuries to come.

The CTO of Opera Software, Håkon Wium Lie, once said the Web will last for at least 500 years, and made impact to the society just like Gutenberg’s printing press. I totally agree with him, even though none of us will be around and told me I was wrong, as he puts it. Let’s make it great.

Disclaimer: This post express the opinion of my own and does not necessarily represents the point of view of Mozilla nor Mozilla Corp.

5 thoughts on “Common misconceptions about Boot-to-Gecko, and the Web

  1. Great post. Misconception #1 & #3 annoy me the most when I read other people trying to grasp what an ‘open web phone’ really means. Hopefully the more we can showcase the power of HTML5 driven apps on the phone, the more people realize its value.

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