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Re: App Manifest & API Proposal

From: Marcos Caceres <w3c@marcosc.com>
Date: Sat, 12 May 2012 20:21:31 +0100
To: Anant Narayanan <anant@mozilla.com>
Cc: public-webapps <public-webapps@w3.org>
Message-ID: <CDF8F1CC7F104F868798A81144B1F75C@marcosc.com>
Hi Anant,  
Great to see Moz pushing this forwards - and welcome to the WG!:) I'm excited to see this proposal and I'm looking forward to working with you on it as part of the WG.  

On Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 19:02, Anant Narayanan wrote:

> Q. Why not simply reuse the widgets spec [2]?
>  
> A. Aside from naming (we're talking about apps, the word "widget" seems
> to imply an artificial limitation), and replacing XML with JSON;  

Renaming the W3C widget spec would take about seconds :) No one is married to the name as we all know the name "widgets" is stupid (who would have figured stupid names matter so much:)). Bikesheds aside, I think quite a few people on this list would like to see the two efforts merged. Quite a lot of investment has been made into the widgets specs by various companies here so it would be good not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (e.g., the Moz proposal uses the same element semantics in its JSON format than the W3C widgets format, the i18n models are essentially the same… and most notably, the Moz proposal sorely lacks a parsing/error recovery model, which could simply be adapted from the W3C widgets spec).    
> the
> other fundamental difference is that the widget spec describes packaged
> apps, whereas our manifest describes hosted apps.


This is not exactly true. The metadata format is consequently bound to the zip file (but the relationships are pretty weak between a config.xml and its container… some places require a file path, but those could just be swapped out with a URL or path relative to some origin). The only reason that there is a weak relationship between a config.xml and the package is because:  

 a. HTML was supposed to handle the metadata for the app.  
 b. There was no drive to standardise what is being proposed now 6 years ago (and slightly related, XML was still all the rage back then… and it's even so today on some platforms like Android).  

Another counter to the "packaged/hosted" app assertion is Apache Wookie's use of W3C widgets to embed widgets the Web:
http://incubator.apache.org/wookie/

> We think hosted apps have several interesting and unique web-like
> properties that are worth retaining. Hosted apps can be made to work
> offline just as well as packaged apps with AppCache (which is in need of
> some improvement, but can be made to work!).

Yes, it is common knowledge that AppCache is a douchebag (technical term) :)   
> Packaged apps do have their
> own advantages though, which we acknowledge, and are open to extending
> the spec to support both types of apps.

So, to be honest, my concern with the current proposal is that we have regressed back a little bit compared to widgets: the current proposal is a good start, but is lacking several key things (e.g., the parsing/error handling model). I would urge the group to consider a merge between the two approaches so that the JSON format could also be used with packaged apps (and that we drop the archaic/stupid/hated word "widget" once and for all).  

Kind regards,
Marcos  

--  
Marcos Caceres
http://datadriven.com.au
Received on Saturday, 12 May 2012 19:22:02 GMT

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