Publishing HTML5 Web Apps

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.

Facebook

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.

The Facebook app store is browseable on the open web.

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.

The Chrome Web Store comes with Chrome, but isn't accessible from other browsers.

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

Pokki is a Windows-only app store that’s taken off recently with the launch of their “start menu replace­ment” for Windows 8.

The Pikki App Store is browseable online or from the Pokki app.

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.

Firefox Marketplace

The Firefox Marketplace is a rel­at­ive new­comer to the web app space, aim­ing to com­pete with the Chrome Web Store.

The Firefox marketplace is accessible from the web at large, but also comes on Firefox for Android and Firefox OS.

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.

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