Google's Ultimate Web App API: Do Users Want This Level of Sharing?

by Sam Dean - Aug. 08, 2011Comments (0)

Google is working on a meta API that it claims could create an unprecedented level of seamless sharing and transparency between web applications. Dubbed Web Intents, it is billed as a fast way "to connect your web app to a service with as little as two lines of code," according to a blog post from Google. Google's Android mobile OS already has such an API that allows mobile apps to share data, which contributes to the app multitasking that Google touts as an advantage over apps built for the iPhone. A similar API for web apps, though, could raise privacy and data integrity issues for some users.

"In today’s browser ecosystem, web apps are completely disconnected or require the use of complicated APIs in order to make use of a third-party service, e.g., posting a comment to Twitter from your custom publishing domain," says the Google post. "What if we could give sites the ability to leverage these services without any knowledge of the chosen service, except that it provides some set of predefined functionality?"

Web Intents can undoubtedly unlock some efficiencies between applications that reside in the cloud, for sharing data or posting directly from one site to an application such as Twitter or Facebook.  The Google post explains that Web Intents will become part of the plumbing of the Chrome browser (and, certainly, Chrome OS):

"This web platform API will provide the same benefits of Android Intents, but better suited for web applications. When designing the system, we have first and foremost been interested in creating a simple, easy-to-use API. With Web Intents, you will be able to connect your web app to a service with as little as two lines of code! Chrome will perform the heavy lifting for you."

Beyond specifically mentioning that Web Intents will be part of the plumbing of Chrome, take note of this from the post:

"Mozilla is also actively exploring this problem space. In fact we’re working closely with Mozilla engineers to unify our two proposals into one simple, useful API."

In other words, both of the leading open source browsers may soon leverage the same master API for sharing data and services between web applications. There is both promise and peril in these efforts. Given how easily data can be compromised when transferred between applications, the API needs to have secure provisions built in.

In any case, Google has provided an Examples page that will let you get familiar woth how Web Intents work--worth checking out.

John Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


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