The Chrome Web Store, first announced at Google I/O, is set for launch in October 2010. It’s being referred to as the “App Store” throughout the web and comparisons with Apple’s systems are inevitable.
The Web Store has two primary goals:
1. Make it easy to find web applications
According to Google, web application discovery is difficult.
During I/O, they cited a chess game example: there are thousands of online versions of chess, but locating a good peer-reviewed game is difficult (should Google search take the blame?!) Finding a good-quality chess game for a mobile device is considerably easier.
I’m not totally convinced by the example — it’s easier on a mobile because there are fewer games available. However, application discovery becomes more logical when you consider the release of the Google Chrome Operating System. The OS is essentially a fast-starting web browser and users will be able to view a categorized list of applications (think package managers in most Linux distros).
Making money on the web isn’t always easy for legitimate traders selling content or software. The Web Store will make it simple to list products and have Google manage the ugly payment processing details. It will support:
- free applications
- single payments
- monthly or yearly subscriptions
- free trials, and
- custom payment solutions
There’s a full licensing API and the fees appear reasonable when compared to Apple or other payment gateways. Following a one-time sign-up fee of $5, Google will take a (rumored) 5% cut of revenue.
What can you sell?
Google suggests a number of appropriate products for the Web Store:
- Chrome themes and extensions
I’m not sure many people would pay for a few fancy graphics or a widget that’s free elsewhere. However, the model works in the smartphone market and Chrome OS is likely to appear on tablet PCs and other mobile devices.
- Packaged apps
Downloadable offline applications are viable and, in future, the Google Native Client (NaCl) will allow fast 32-bit x86 code to run directly in the browser. Fast action games are feasible.
- Installable web apps
With a little effort, a web application can be installed as a Chrome application.
This last option will excite many web developers. Any web application can be made installable by creating a JSON-encoded .crx manifest file which describes it’s function, the URL and icon files. After installation, the application icon appears on Chrome’s ‘new tab’ page and opens its own icon-only tab window. There are a couple of additional benefits:
- The application’s window will not have browser navigation controls.
- The user’s preferences are saved, e.g. they are only asked once for permission to use features such as geolocation and offline storage.
The Chrome Web Store sounds interesting and the possibility of monetary gains could make it a success. For more information, refer to:
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.
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