Mozilla, the non-profit organisation behind the popular open-source Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client, has gone live with an early version of Mozilla Marketplace, a one-stop shop for web apps.
If the concept of Mozilla Marketplace, a site where popular web apps can be purchased and installed, seems familiar, you're probably a Chrome user: Google's own browser has a similar feature in the form of the Chrome Web Store
, which holds both web apps and extensions for the Chrome browser and Chrome OS operating system.
Mozilla's Marketplace goes a little further than Google's Chrome Web Store, however: where apps installed into Chrome appear as shortcuts only in the 'speed dial' screen in the browser, those installed via the Mozilla Marketplace are inserted into the operating system's application menu and desktop as quick-access shortcuts. As a result, it's possible to load a web app quickly even if the browser isn't currently open.
For Windows users, that means web apps are directly available from the Start Menu - and can even be uninstalled from the system using the standard tools in the Windows Control Panel. Apps also open in a standalone browser window, lacking much of the user interface chrome of standard Firefox in order to make them feel more like native applications.
There are, however, a few caveats to Mozilla's experiment. Firstly, it relies on functionality which is not yet present in the mainstream releases of Firefox; those who want to try the service out will need the Nightly build of Firefox 16. The service is also somewhat limited, with just 200 applications available at present - many of which are free, with a small number available for a nominal fee.
If you're willing to install a pre-alpha version of Firefox onto your system - with Windows, OS X and Linux all fully supported - to give the service a go, the service is now live
. You'll need a BrowserID account to sign up, but the site will walk you through the process if you haven't already got one.