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How will Mozilla?s open marketplace shake up mobile Web development?

Mozilla?s announcement that it will open up its mobile Web marketplace points to the ongoing need for HTML5-based Web development. So, what does this mean for brands, publishers and retailers?

Mozilla?s open marketplace signals the need from the mobile industry to develop more cross-platform mobile solutions. Additionally, the deal will push Mozilla into the mix to compete head-on with app stores from platforms including Apple, Google and Microsoft.

?The Web is the world?s largest marketplace, instantly connecting the ecosystem of developers and content owners with limitless possibilities for consumer interaction,? said Ragavan Srinivasan, product manager of apps for Mozilla, Mountain View, CA.

?In introducing the Mozilla Web Apps Marketplace, we are unlocking the Web as the platform to build apps powered by open Web standards such as HTML5, CSS, and Javascript, along with Mozilla-proposed APIs so that app experiences can be delivered on any HTML5-enabled device,? he said.

Web benefits
According to Mozilla, the new Web marketplace helps solve two major issues ? fragmentation and development cost.

The theory behind the deal is to create rich, interactive elements that mimic an app but uses the mobile browser to reach more consumers. Similar to an app store, developers will be able to submit mobile Web sites to help get them discovered by consumers.

One of the main challenges with app development is getting users to find, download and use an app and as mobile Web becomes more sophisticated, Mozilla?s marketplace aims to do the same for mobile sites.

Technologies such as HTML5 promise developers a cross-platform solution that companies can use to roll out mobile initiatives with a more appealing design, which will undoubtedly heat up the ongoing debate between which is more important ? a mobile Web site or a mobile app.

Mozilla says its marketplace will help developers create a one-time mobile Web site that can then be sold everywhere. The solution will also help developers add features such as in-app payments to their mobile Web initiaitives.

Although details on the new marketplace are slim right now, Mozilla plans to reveal more about the announcement at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. After making the service available to developers, the marketplace will be open to consumers later this year.

Mobile debate
The debate between developing a mobile Web site or app stems far back into the mobile industry.

Mobile Web has traditionally been seen as a platform that reaches the most number of consumers but has a less-immersive experience than apps.

However, initiatives such as the one from Mozilla show that mobile Web sites are quickly gaining traction with apps to have deeper content.

The goal of Mozilla?s marketplace is to make the mobile Web community more open, so brands will need to now look more closely at their Web traffic to decide whether a mobile app or Web site is more valuable.

?HTML5 is the underlying standard that allows developers and content providers to create user experiences, apps and Web sites that work across all screens, including tablets,? Mr. Srinivasan said.

?As an open standard, HTML5 allows for an even playing field where the interest of the individual user and developer align without the baggage that comes with proprietary technology,? he said.

?We see the Web as the mobile platform and are building products and services that free users and developers from ecosystem lock-ins and allow for compelling mobile experiences.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York