Anne van Kesteren

Making the web platform more suitable for “apps”

At Mozilla we’re trying to bring the web platform closer to what is taken for granted in the “walled gardens” of our time (Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and friends). A big thing we need to solve is offline. As applications, sites should just work without network connectivity. Some variant of “NavigationController” (the name is bad) will give us that, but we need to iterate on it more. And in particular we need to test it to make sure performance is adequate and the API simple enough.

We have an API for end-user notifications, but after the site is closed clicking the notification from the notification center will fail (what should happen?) and if there are multiple browsing contexts with the same site open there is also some ambiguity as to which should receive focus. The permission grant is per-origin, but a single origin can host multiple sites. Push notifications face similar issues. The site is not open, but a push notification for it comes in, where should it be delivered?

The idea we have been toying around with is a worker that could be fired up whenever there is some external event that cannot be directly managed by the site (e.g. when the site is not open). This idea is not new, Google suggested it long ago, but it did not take off. A change from their model would be to not make these workers persistent, but rather short-lived so they are not too wasteful. Part of the application logic would move to the server, and push notifications can be used to wake the worker (we have been using “event worker” as a name) to e.g. notify the user or synchronize state for when the user navigates to the relevant site next.