Delivering apps as web services, rather than natively-packaged code, can have a lot of appeal to developers: it can streamline distribution (including that of updates), allow you to reach users across platform boundaries, and speed development time. That’s not to say that web apps aren’t without their own set of problems, and one such issue has concerned just how we interact with these apps on our smartphones: sure, we can pin a bookmark to a web app on our home screen, but then what about the app drawer? And how would the web app look when we’re trying to switch between open apps? Last fall, we heard about some efforts with Chrome for Android to help web apps feel more like native applications, but this week we see Mozilla take things one step further, introducing a web app repackaging system for Firefox beta 29.
Here’s what’s happening: once you choose an app to install in the Firefox Marketplace, the browser will repackage it so that it appears to Android very much like a regular, stand-alone app. That means that it gets its own icon, and will now show up properly in both the app drawer and recent apps list – no generic “web app” label or anything.
Sure, it’s Firefox still running behind the scenes (and any such apps will stop working if you uninstall Firefox), but even a very on-the-surface change like this can go a long way towards making web apps feel much more natural, and may help cut down on some of the stigma surrounding them.