[whatwg] Installed Apps

Boris Zbarsky bzbarsky at MIT.EDU
Tue Jul 28 21:38:39 PDT 2009

Michael Davidson wrote:
> - As for persistence beyond browser lifetime, I understand the
> reticence. However, similar problems have been solved in the past.
> Flash asks the user for access to hardware like cameras. Surely being
> able to take pictures of users is as scary as running code after the
> browser has closed.

I don't think it is, no.  Taking a picture is a one-time activity; the 
user knows exactly what he's getting into.  And once the picture is 
taken, no more picture-taking until the user says so explicitly.

I, personally, would be hard-pressed to describe the 
persistence-beyond-browser-lifetime issue to a typical user in a way 
that would allow him to make an informed decision on it.

Heck, I would be hard-pressed to explain it via a browser dialog or the 
like even to a very intelligent user who happens to not be intimately 
familiar with the way their computer and the internet happen to work. I 
could do it in 10-15 minutes of in-person conversation, probably.  Or 
several typed sheets of paper worth of text...

> For browsers that do have extensions, having the
> extension outlive the visible browser process doesn't seem like that
> great a leap in functionality.

While this is true, extensions (at least in Firefox) are installed with 
the following user-facing caveats:

1)  You have to explicitly opt-in to the install source, unless it's
2)  You are told that extensions can do anything they want to.

Item 1 above is very important.

Note that you could write a Firefox extension that outlives the browser 
today.  Just include a binary component that starts a separate process.

> Perhaps the install UI could look and feel more
> like the UI for installing a native app?

Really, it sounds like you want something more akin to a Prism app [1] 
than anything else.  You don't _actually_ want to run gmail in a browser 
window.  You just want to deliver it over http:// and leverage a 
browser-like thing on the other end for rendering it, right?


[1] http://prism.mozilla.com/

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