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Amazon opens Appstore doors to web apps

Web devs invited to cash in with JavaScript purchasing API

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Amazon has begun accepting web apps and mobile-optimized websites for sale in its Amazon Appstore for Kindle and Android devices, allowing developers to market their HTML-based wares to mobile users in over 200 countries.

"By launching support for HTML5 web apps in the Mobile App Distribution Program, we're giving web developers the tools they need and all the benefits that native apps already enjoy in the Amazon Appstore and on Kindle Fire," Amazon Appstore VP Mike George said in a statement.

Google has similarly offered HTML-based apps for sale through its Chrome Web Store since 2010, but that marketplace is separate from the Google Play store where developers market apps for Android. Amazon will offer web apps and native Android apps through a single channel.

The advantage for developers, the e-tailer says, is that the Amazon Appstore makes it easier for potential customers to discover web apps, rather than searching the open web. It also allows developers to offer content without going through any special steps to package it for mobile devices.

"We've heard from developers that making their web apps available for mobile devices is hard because many times it means rewriting their app, which takes extra time and often requires third party tools," George said.

Under Amazon's system, web app developers simply submit a URL to the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Portal along with screenshots of their app, icons, and a manifest file that includes such metadata as permissions and the developer's unique verification key. No further tools or steps are necessary.

Not that Amazon wouldn't like to see web developers tweak their apps for its platform, mind you. To sweeten the pot, the online sales goliath has made available the Amazon In-App Purchasing API for JavaScript, which allows web developers to hook into Amazon's purchasing infrastructure to sell things like subscriptions, game enhancements, or customizations, just like they can with native apps.

Amazon has also released a Web App Tester – available via the Amazon Appstore, naturally – to help developers test and optimize their web apps for Android devices, and Kindle Fire tablets in particular. Amazon says the latest web runtime for Kindle Fire offers a "native-like experience" for web apps, in addition to providing on-device debugging tools.

The Appstore started accepting web app submissions on Wednesday, and complete instructions on how to package and submit apps for sale are available here. ® 

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