Openappmkt: An iOS web app for iOS web apps
Openappmkt, which is apparently in subtle beta, is exactly what it sounds like: An open market for web apps. At the moment it seems to only be intended for iOS, and the selection of web apps currently inhabiting the market is minute compared to the actual App Store, but it definitely has potential.
The market is fairly slick and clean when viewed with a regular browser, but loading it on an iOS device is an entirely different experience. The market itself is a web app, and a nice one to boot. Navigating the categories is smooth and feels quite natural. If you decide to get an app, the experience is just as smooth as using the App Store to buy one, only instead of downloading a piece of software you simply add a bookmark to your home screen and continue about your business.
One thing I found to be a bit confusing about the "market" was that, since all its "wares" were nothing more than bookmarks, that it felt a bit odd to refer to anything in commercial jargon at all. After a bit of hunting I did manage to find a couple of apps that weren't free, but one of them appeared to be marginally useful (possibly added to test the checkout process?).
This of course made me think about the usual arguments both for and against the official App Store -- notably how real iOS apps are put through a gauntlet, and while complete scams do exist they're somewhat more rare in a walled garden. Fortunately, there's not much damage a web app can do, but that won't help the people who wind up getting taken for their money -- even if it is just $1.
My one real issue with the market at this point, is that Openappmkt itself is opened along with any web app that a user opens, if that app was acquired in the market. If apps were exclusively available on Openappmkt, then this wouldn't bother me so much (I might feel that the word "Open" ought to be left out of things, though). That's not the case here, the majority of web apps on the market are available elsewhere on the Internet -- the Google Voice web app, for instance. The apps apparently load this way as a method to ensure that paid apps are being used by the person who bought them, but that doesn't make it any less off-putting for the free apps. If a web app is free and also freely available at their own site on the Web, then why on earth should Openappmkt open as a wrapper for that app just because the user found it listed there?
Maybe it's just a silly gripe, and it's definitely a minor one, but it's the biggest potential issue I could come up with. Overall, I think that this market, if not one just like it, could some day in the near future become a rival for the App Store itself as web apps take center stage in the iOS world. I think, however, I would just prefer to get my web apps from the source, not the middle-man.
iOS users should check and see for themselves; I think you may find that it's lacking quite a bit right now, but you might just agree that it could bloom into something much bigger in the months to come.