[whatwg] Installed Apps

Dmitry Titov dimich at google.com
Thu Jul 30 12:51:04 PDT 2009

It seems the biggest concern in this discussion is around "BotNet
Construction Kit" as Machej succulently called it, or an ability to run
full-powered platform API persistently in the background, w/o a visible
'page' in some window.
This concern is clear. But what could be a direction to the solution?
Assuming one of the goals for html5 is reducing a gap in capabilities
between web apps and native apps, how do we move forward with more powerful

So far, multiple ways exist to gain access to the user's machine - nearly
all of them based on some dialog that asks user to make impossible decision
- as bad as it is, binary downloads, plugins, browser extensions, axtivex
controls or Gears modules are all but a dialog away from the user's
computer. Basically, if a malicious dudes are cool to write native apps -
they can have their botnet relatively easy. The ongoing fight with malware
and viruses will continue - not because the platforms have wrong API, but
because it's really hard to give power to the apps and not to the malware,
since they, in essence, do the very similar things.

As controversial as it sounds, it might be if a web platform API can't be
used to write a botnet, then it can't be used to write a wide class of
powerful applications as well :-)

I don't have a botnet example, but when Safari 4 visits the sites in the
background (to keep the 'new tab page' site snapshots up-to-date) w/o ever
asking my permission - it looks a bit scary, because I'm not sure I want it
to visit websites at random time from my IP with I don't know what cookies
and then snapshot the result in jpg and store it locally... But I sort of
like the feature anyways. Now, how can I make a web app that does this? Some
sort of background shared page could be handy. It can pop up the same dialog
when installed, live in Applications folder but it should be possible. Now
if we make it possible, would it be possible to write a botnet on top of the
API? Of course! Same exact way as it's possible to write even better botnet
on OSX API in which Safari is written.

Now, what if I want the same feature but implemented not as a native app,
but as a web app? We would need to give it specific rights locally, and make
the process transparent - not only on 'install' time but when it runs too -
so the user could peek into some 'task manager' and clearly see if such
thing is running. Browser could periodically download 'malware lists' and
kill those web apps that are in it.

But for now, it should be ok to have it 'installed' with a specific browser
dialog that asks the user to make a decision the user may not understand -
it is not the ideal way but it is the common way today, users know they are
asked these questions, admins and IT teaches users what to do when asked, so
it's the best we can do now. Having a 'task manager' (as in Chrome)
reflecting those things is good too.

Btw, if it only can do window.open() on the url from the same domain, then
if it's from Gmail then it can't be used or hijaked.  If it is from a site
that says install this and I'll show you a pretty picture and user clicks
through a dialog, I'd say it's not a new vector for malware.


On Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 10:26 AM, Michael Davidson <mpd at google.com> wrote:

> On Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 5:38 PM, Maciej Stachowiak<mjs at apple.com> wrote:
> > * Notification Feeds *
> >
> > Often, web applications would like to give users the option to subscribe
> to
> > notifications that occur at specific times or in response to server-side
> > events, and for the user to get these UI notifications without a
> > prerequisite that the web app is open or that the browser is running.
> There
> > may be a desire to do client-side computation as well, but often just the
> > ability to give the user a notification solves the basic user interaction
> > problem.
> >
> > One possible way to address this kind of use case is to let users
> subscribe
> > to a "feed" of notifications. This feed could use standard syndication
> > formats, such as RSS or Atom. But instead of being displayed in a
> This is an interesting idea. The lack of push updates, though, would
> make it much less useful than it could be.
> Here's a rough sketch of a more far-out idea: What if all browsers
> were XMPP clients and stanzas could be sent to display notifications?
> The attack surface would still be low, but you'd get realtime updates.
> Instead of subscribing to a feed of notifications, the user accepts
> what is essentially a chat invitation from the site. Like normal XMPP
> invitations, this would be revocable at any time.
> Lots of issues to work out, but you'd get realtime for free.
> Michael
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