Once you have your HTML5 game or app up and running, where do you go to publish it?
You could buy the .com, chuck it online and publicise it ferociously, but have you ever considered submitting it to the various web app stores that are popping up around the ‘net?
There are a number to choose from and each have benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a few you might be interested in.
The big F, the Facebook App Center is one of the biggest publishers you can choose. It’s nowhere near as slick as other app stores and tends to get a bad reputation, but if you’re after exposure this is by far the best bet.
Facebook apps are essentially just iframes inside the Facebook chrome. You get a number of custom APIs on top of standard HTML5 which let you do things like post on the user’s behalf and scour their friends list for connections, and indeed the ecosystem is heavily skewed toward doing so.
One of the down-sides of Facebook is that it’s a browser free-for-all, so you need to make sure your software works on everything including traditional browsers such as IE7+.
If you’re looking from some cheap exposure and your app doesn’t mind being squashed into a frame, consider publishing on Facebook.
Chrome Web Store
The Chrome Web Store is an excellent way to get your web app out to Chrome users. The Web Store is built into the browser and lets you distribute web apps in a number of different ways.
Google have worked hard to bring some of the benefits of native apps to their ChromeBook devices, which also carry over to other platforms that run Chrome. You can create web apps that install and run completely offline or in a separate app-specific window if that’s your thing. You can choose to distribute your logic and assets inside the Chrome app when it’s installed, or simply create a wrapper to your existing website (although the latter may be frowned upon by your users).
The benefits of the Chrome Web Store are that it’s Chrome-only so you know what you’re getting in terms of rendering engine, and you don’t have to be too concerned about wrangling with Internet Explorer. There are additionally some proprietary APIs such as for interfacing with Google Drive and other Chromebook native things, although a standard W3C compliant web app will work just fine.
The Chrome Web Store really is a good spot to publish because there’s almost no effort required and your app becomes available almost instantly. If you’re publishing a web app, make sure you publish it here.
Pokki is a Windows-only app store that’s taken off recently with the launch of their “start menu replacement” for Windows 8.
The software itself is based on Chromium and works very much the same as Chrome itself under the hood, so again you’re not developing for multiple platforms. The caveat is that wrapped apps aren’t allowed, so you’re going to have to do some work to get your app to work offline or at least self-contained on the client-side.
While Pokki is Windows-only, it’s still a great way to get exposure for your app.
Publish here if your web app is mostly client-side and you’ve got a little time on your hands to adapt it to meet the Pokki review process.
The Firefox Marketplace is a relative newcomer to the web app space, aiming to compete with the Chrome Web Store.
While much of the underlying technology is different, the same basic points apply as to the Chrome Web Store.
The main difference is that the Firefox Marketplace aims to use as many existing web standards as possible, and allows you to host your app on your own server using the HTML5 Application Cache. You can also package your logic and assets into a zip to distribute it via the web store, although this isn’t a necessity.
The Firefox Marketplace is additionally available on both desktop and mobile, through Firefox for Android and the upcoming Firefox OS.
Publish here if you’ve got a responsive app and want to make if available across a range of devices.
Where should I publish my web app?
When publishing your web app, you should choose the simplest options first. Once this is stable, think about wrapping or porting your app for Firefox and Chrome.
Facebook and Pokki are a little more tricky because they have certain requirements that need to be met through their review process, but both can be extremely valuable for getting your app out there.
As an alternative, you may choose to reduce development costs by targeting more standards compliant browsers and initially such as Chrome or Firefox, then backporting to Internet Explorer at a later date. This method can be useful for rapidly getting your app out there, although you may be in for pain at a later date.
It’s best to look at each marketplace and compare your options, you might be surprised at the benefits publishing to a web app store can bring.