11/18/10

Why Open doesn't always equal Open in the World of Apps

With the increasing discussion about (Open) Web Apps and how to distribute them, we seem to run into an interesting confusion about the meaning and use of the term "open".

imageFor starters the term "open" broadly speaking can mean two different things when we refer to Open Web Apps or Open Web App stores/marketplaces/ecosystem:  On one hand we have the use of Open Web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build these apps - which means that the apps (mostly) run in all modern browsers.  On the other hand we have openness in the way the market is architected - this ranges from single, vertically integrated stores (not open) to completely free markets which allow for many stores and the self-publication of apps (very open).

These two aspects are fundamentally different and not interlinked:  You can have a tightly controlled single marketplace for apps built using Open Web technology which only run on one particular device, operating system or browser based on the distribution scheme of the market.  On the other hand you can have a multitude of markets/stores for apps which are built to run on a single device/operating system.  Both might be referred to as open - the first is open in the sense that it distributes apps which are built using open technologies (though the market is not open), the other provides choice on the store side, which is an open market - but distributes closed apps.

Obviously the most open approach is an open market (many stores) for apps built using open technology (no device/OS lock-in).  This is what we are building at Mozilla at the moment.

So be careful when you talk about open - open doesn't always equal open... [Photo Credit: wiccked on flickr]