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Open Web Apps and the Mozilla Labs Apps project

robhawkes
February 07, 2012

Open Web Apps and the Mozilla Labs Apps project

In this talk Rob will introduce the Mozilla Labs Apps project and the related technologies that are helping it happen. The aim of this project is to produce an apps eco-system on the Web that uses open technologies and gives developers and users the freedom to sell and use apps in the way they want.

Aside from the conceptual issues that this project tackles, Rob will also cover some of the JavaScript APIs that are being worked on to provide the necessary functionality for apps. It is these APIs that allow developers to create an immersive experience within their apps that they wouldn't have been able to achieve in the browser until now.

robhawkes

February 07, 2012
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  1. OPEN WEB APPS
    Mozilla Labs Apps project
    Rob Hawkes
    Hi, I’m Rob Hawkes and I’m going to talk about the Mozilla Labs Apps project and what it
    means for the Web.

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  2. I work at Mozilla, a non-profit company who is fighting for a better Web.
    If you’re unsure about how much I love Mozilla then check out this beautiful chicken and leek
    pie with extra Firefox goodness.
    It was made by my talented girlfriend and it was delicious.

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  3. My official job title is Technical Evangelist but I prefer what it says on my business card.
    Part of my job is to engage with developers and designers like you and I about cool new
    technologies on the Web.
    I’m interested in everything that’s going on but my particular focus at Mozilla is on game
    development using Web technologies.
    And for those of you with no idea of what a rawket is, I made a multiplayer game called
    Rawkets in which players fly around in little rockets and shoot each other in the face with
    HTML5 and JavaScript.
    It’s actually quite fun!
    http://rawkets.com

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  4. We might have enough time for questions at the end but feel free to grab me in person after
    this talk or on Twitter. I’m always happy to help.
    These slides will go online after this talk and they’ll be available from my personal website.
    I’ll put all the details up at the end.

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  5. Created by Phil Banks (@emirpprime)
    Now, it’s no secret that I spend most of my time experimenting with HTML5 and other cool
    technologies like JavaScript.
    If you’ve met me before then you probably already know about my slight addiction to HTML5
    canvas, visual programming, and gaming.

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  6. The concept of Web apps is something that is gaining a lot of traction at the moment.
    No doubt this is as a result of the success of native applications on the desktop and mobile,
    particularly with iOS and Android.
    What’s exciting is that HTML5 and JavaScript are now allowing developers to create app
    experiences on the Web that can rival those on the desktop and mobile.
    But just having the technology isn’t good enough.

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  7. Current situation
    Things could be better
    Currently, app platforms are predominantly closed in either the technology required to make
    the apps or the methods that are used to distribute them.
    Although these approaches do have their benefits they also put unnecessary constraints on
    the developers and users of apps.
    It’s also not an ideal solution if we want an open Web.

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  8. Mozilla Labs Apps project
    For the good of the Web
    At Mozilla we think there is a better way, a way that puts the developers and users of apps
    back in charge.
    We think there is a way that embraces open technology and is for the good of the Web.
    We call it the Mozilla Labs Apps project and we’re working hard to make it a reality.

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  9. Reach
    Apps can be used cross-platform
    It allows you to create rich HTML5 app experiences that run across multiple devices and form
    factors (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc.)

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  10. Open technology
    What you already use to make websites
    It allows you to use Web standards and open technologies such as HTML5, CSS and
    JavaScript.
    Anything you currently use to build a website with can be used to build an app.

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  11. Freedom
    of choice
    Putting devs and consumers in control
    It puts you in control of every aspect of the app experience; from easy development, to
    distribution, to direct communication with your customers.

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  12. Developer preview
    Laying the groundwork
    Right now we’re in a limited Developer Preview to lay the groundwork and test things but
    we’ll soon be opening that up so more people can try it out.

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  13. Getting started
    How to create an app
    Creating a Web app isn’t crazy hard, it’s just a case of understanding the new features in
    browsers.

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  14. Apps are websites
    They use the same technology
    Apps are websites and are built using the same technology and processes.
    If you already know how to make a website then creating your first Web app is a breeze.

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  15. Extending the website
    Adding new functionality for apps
    The Mozilla Labs Apps project proposes some additions to standard websites and introduces
    a few new JavaScripts APIs into the browser that help make apps an experience unlike any
    other on the Web.
    If you don’t know JavaScript then don’t be put off, the amount that’s needed to make an app
    is relatively small and should make sense to you.
    However, I would definitely advise learning JavaScript development if you’re planning on
    getting really involved in Web apps.

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  16. Application manifest
    Turning a website into an app
    The only thing that you need to do to turn a website into app is create an application
    manifest.

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  17. {
    "version": "1.0",
    "name": "MozillaBall",
    "description": "Exciting Open Web development action!",
    "icons": {
    "16": "/img/icon-16.png",
    "48": "/img/icon-48.png",
    "128": "/img/icon-128.png"
    },
    "developer": {
    "name": "Mozilla Labs",
    "url": "http://mozillalabs.com"
    },
    "installs_allowed_from": [
    "https://appstore.mozillalabs.com"
    ],
    "default_locale": "en"
    }
    This is a JSON file that effectively describes your application; it’s name, icons, and other
    related data.

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  18. Manifest requirements
    Important to remember
    There are a couple of important things to remember when creating an application manifest.

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  19. Same domain
    An element of security
    The first is that it needs to be hosted from the same domain as your Web app.
    This is pretty straightforward and it adds an element of security in that it is unlikely that a
    rouge manifest file will be able to be put on the same domain without your knowledge.

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  20. Content-type header
    application/x-web-app-manifest+json
    The second is that it needs to be served with a specific content type (application/x-web-app-
    manifest+json).
    This is probably the most tricky process in turning a website into an app as it involves
    changing settings on your server or a bit of hackery in your manifest file.
    If you don’t want to fiddle with your server then you can always set the content-type header
    using something like PHP or Node.js.

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  21. Extension
    my-manifest-file.webapp
    It’s also recommended that the manifest file has an extension of .webapp, although this isn’t
    enforced.

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  22. Manifest validator
    Making sure everything is ok
    If you want to make sure your manifest is valid you can have it checked at http://
    appmanifest.org

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  23. Installing apps
    Via extension and soon in the browser
    You can install and manage apps using an extension for Firefox on the desktop and an
    application for Android.
    We’re working on building the necessary functionality directly into Firefox, as well as
    providing a JavaScript include that can be used in other browsers.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/app-runtime/
    https://apps.mozillalabs.com/bin/Soup-0.1.apk

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  24. Installing an app
    navigator.mozApps.install(manifestUrl)
    Installing an app is achieved through the new mozApps JavaScript API, particularly the install
    method.
    By passing it a string URL to the app’s manifest file you will trigger the installation process.
    An example of when you would call this method is after a user clicks on an “Install this app”
    button on your own website.

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  25. The install method triggers an installation dialogue within the browser that allows the user to
    decide what to do with the app.

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  26. When installed, apps can be accessed and managed via a special dashboard during the
    developer preview.
    This is available by accessing https://myapps.mozillalabs.com or clicking on the Apps link at
    the bottom of the Firefox window.

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  27. Apps launched from the dashboard are opened in an application tab at the far left-hand side
    of the tab bar.
    An application tab is different in that it has a much smaller visual footprint in the tab bar and
    there is little browser UI cluttering the screen, like the address bar.

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  28. Distribution
    App stores and money
    Creating an app is only half the story, the final chapter is distributing your app and getting it
    in the hands of users.
    There are a couple of prominent options here.

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  29. Go it alone
    Take full control and do it yourself
    The first option is to provide the app only via your own website and do the leg work in
    regards to promotion.
    This option is an enticing one for developers who want full control over where and how their
    app is distributed.
    However, right now this is a tricky option if you want to charge for your app.

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  30. Existing platforms
    Like the Mozilla App Marketplace
    The second option is to use an existing platform like the Mozilla App Marketplace.
    There are many benefits to this option but the main ones are that you don’t need to worry
    about payment systems nor have to do as much promotion.
    The marketplace uses PayPal and BrowserID to make the purchase and confirmation of
    purchase as easy as possible.
    http://apps-preview.mozilla.org/

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  31. Native experience
    Apps are no longer just glorified websites
    I think what is most interesting about the apps project is the ability to break away from the
    concept of apps being nothing more than glorified websites.
    Instead, the new functionality allows Web apps to look and act much like native applications
    that you would find in an operating system, rather than a website running within a browser.

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  32. WebRT
    Installing apps within the OS
    We call this WebRT (Web run-time) and it’s really cool.
    It allows you to install Web apps in the operating system as if they were a native application.
    Right now, WebRT is supported on Windows, Mac, and Android.
    It’s built into the Firefox extension, Android application, and JavaScript include that I
    mentioned earlier for installing and managing apps.

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  33. It’s really easy to use and you don’t need to do anything special as a developer to enable it in
    your app.
    Whenever a user requests to install an app they will see an option to install it natively.

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  34. Launch from
    the dock
    …or desktop, or home screen
    Apps installed using WebRT are no different to any other native application that you have on
    your computer.
    They’re installed in a standard applications folder and can be launched in the same way that
    you launch any other application.
    For example, on the Mac your app would be installed in the ~/Applications directory.

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  35. No browser UI
    The application is yours and yours alone
    WebRT applications use a browser rendering engine behind the scenes but don’t display any
    normal browser UI that would clutter your app.
    Instead, WebRT apps look and feel like native applications while actually using HTML and
    JavaScript behind the scenes.

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  36. This is an example of my HTML5 game running as a WebRT application, check out the lack of
    browser UI.
    Right now WebRT uses the version of Firefox you already have installed to grab the rendering
    engine. In the future you won’t necessarily need a browser installed and WebRT will handle
    grabbing a relevant rendering engine behind the scenes.

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  37. Related technology
    Pushing apps even further
    Aside from WebRT and the apps API there are many other Web technologies that help push
    apps even further.

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  38. Full Screen API
    Simple, yet powerful
    The Full Screen API allows you to expand any HTML element to fill the users screen, even if
    the browser isn’t running full screen itself.
    It’s different to using the F11 shortcut for full screen a that makes the entire browser full
    screen and keeps the address bar and other UI if you place the mouse near the top of the
    screen.
    With the Full Screen API only the specific HTML element that you choose will be made full
    screen and the browser UI will be hidden. It’s useful for things like video and games.
    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=545812
    http://blog.pearce.org.nz/2011/09/mozilla-full-screen-api-progress-update.html
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Platform/Features/Full_Screen_APIs

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  39. WebSockets
    Bi-directional real-time communication
    WebSockets is particular favourite of mine.
    It a JavaScript API that allows you to provide bi-directional real-time communication between
    a browser and a server.
    This means you can instantly push data to and from the user as soon as it becomes available.

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  40. Offline assets
    Who needs the Internet anyway
    Technologies like the application cache, Local Storage, and IndexedDB allow for a website or
    app to cache necessary assets to that it can still run while offline.
    This includes things like JavaScript files, CSS and images as well as standard key/value data.
    Combining these techniques will allow your application to continue working even if the
    Internet connection goes down. You just sync up all the changes when it gets connected
    again.
    https://developer.mozilla.org/en/Offline_resources_in_Firefox

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  41. Device APIs
    Accessing hardware with JavaScript
    Device APIs is a catch-all term for the technologies that allow developers to access hardware
    and operating system APIs using JavaScript.

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  42. At Mozilla we’re working on the WebAPI effort which is our attempt at solving this problem.
    In other camps it might be referred to as DAP, which is the Device APIs Working Group who
    are producing a W3C specification for accessing various parts of a device through JavaScript.
    In fact, we recently joined the DAP to collaborate and contribute to the existing efforts.
    The approach we’re taking is to try and replicate the functionality of a mobile phone with
    JavaScript.
    What APIs would you need to do that?
    http://hacks.mozilla.org/2011/08/introducing-webapi/
    http://arewemobileyet.com/

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  43. My favourites
    Device APIs I cannot wait for
    There are so many Device APIs in the pipeline when you combine all the efforts by the various
    browser manufacturers.
    Here are just a few of my favourites.

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  44. Media Capture API
    Accessing the camera and microphone
    The Media Capture API will let you access the camera and microphone on a device.
    Being able to do this with JavaScript will make a whole world of difference in so many areas.
    For example, instead of requiring a user to upload a profile image you could take one using
    the webcam and use that instead. Simple but effective.
    You could also do things like using the microphone input for voice recognition in for input
    areas. I know Google are already experimenting heavily in this area.

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  45. Battery API
    Find out how much juice is left
    The Battery API is interesting because it allows you to find out how much power is remaining,
    or whether the device is currently being charged.

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  46. WebNFC API
    RFID-like wireless communication
    The WebNFC API is pretty cool.
    It gives you the ability to transmit and receive data within distances no larger than a few
    centimetres.
    The idea is that it can be used in phones for things like payment (like the new Barclaycard),
    travel (think Oyster Card), and file transfer.
    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=674741

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  47. Vibration API
    Vibrating you with open technologies
    Or what about the Vibration API that gives you access to the vibration motors of a device.
    Apart from having a humorous name, it’s APIs like this are really going to change the way
    that apps are created with JavaScript.
    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=679966

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  48. Find out more
    Documentation and resources
    I hope I’ve given you a taste for the Mozilla Labs Apps project and the potential for Web apps
    right now.
    There is much, much more to learn about them and the related technology.

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  49. One of the places to check out for general information is the apps section on the Mozilla Labs
    website.
    https://apps.mozillalabs.com/

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  50. For technical information the apps section of the Mozilla Developer Network is the place to
    go.
    It’s full of clear documentation on every detail of the project so far and is being update all the
    time.
    https://developer.mozilla.org/en/Apps

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  51. Talk to us
    #openwebapps on Mozilla IRC
    For anything that can’t be answered by those websites you should get in touch with us.
    The developers and relevant apps-related people at Mozilla hang out in the #openwebapps
    room on irc.mozilla.org so definitely head over there if you have any particular questions or
    concerns.
    We’ll be happy to help.

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  52. Rob Hawkes
    Rawkets.com
    HTML5 & WebSockets game
    Twitter sentiment analysis
    Delving into your soul
    RECENT PROJECTS
    Rawkes.com
    Personal website and blog
    MORE COOL STUFF
    Rawket Scientist
    Technical Evangelist at Mozilla
    @robhawkes
    ExplicitWeb.co.uk
    Web development podcast
    Get in touch with me on Twitter: @robhawkes
    Follow my blog (Rawkes) to keep up to date with stuff that I’m working on: http://
    rawkes.com
    I’ve recently worked on a project that analyses sentiment on Twitter: http://rawkes.com/
    blog/2011/05/05/people-love-a-good-smooch-on-a-balcony
    Rawkets is my multiplayer HTML5 and JavaScript game. Play it, it’s fun: http://rawkets.com

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  53. Hand-picked experts
    @ASKMDN & #ASKMDN ON TWITTER
    Coming back this year
    Web development topics
    Great discussions
    Ask MDN
    ASKMDN
    And lastly, I’d like to quickly mention Ask MDN which is a project that I’m working on at
    Mozilla.
    The concept is simple; every so often we gather a bunch of experts to answer your questions
    about a particular topic.
    We’ve had a whole bunch of sessions to date and it’s going down really well. If you follow
    @AskMDN on Twitter you’ll be sure not to miss the next one when it starts again this year.
    http://twitter.com/AskMDN

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  54. THANK YOU
    Any questions?
    Rob Hawkes
    @robhawkes
    Thank you.
    If you have any questions feel free to grab me on Twitter (@robhawkes) or email
    [email protected].

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