December 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

Google’s Android Marketplace Is Finally Coming to the Web: Report

Google has been testing a web-based version of the Android App Marketplace internally, through its "dogfood" program, in which Google employees use its products before they are released to the public.

Users of Google Android smartphones may not have to wait much longer for a web-based version of the Android Marketplace app store, which has been sadly lacking to date, forcing users to search the store on their phones, rather than on their computers.

Google has changed URLs in what passes for its online app store today so that they start with “market.android.com,” as noticed by an eagle-eyed reporter for the German publication MobiFlip who takes it as an indication that Google is about to flip the switch and put the Android Marketplace online, giving Android owners something they’ve been missing for a while now:

“Google has changed the market’s URL,” wrote MobiFlip founder René Hesse, “which can mean only that the launch must be imminent the web version of Android Market shortly.”

We’re not willing to declare that a URL change can “only mean” that Google plans to launch Android Marketplace soon, but we’re inclined to agree, considering that Google showed off the web-based Android Marketplace to developers earlier this year. It’s only a matter of time until it gets released to the public, and this alteration in the company’s URL seems as likely as anything to indicate that Android Marketplace is coming soon.

Apple, too, used to ignore the web, forcing people to use links that opened within the iTunes application rather than within a web browser. Now, the entire Apple iTunes store is on the web, making it a lot easier for people to tell each other about iOS apps (not to mention the music, podcasts and movies also available there).

The Android Marketplace will become a much better place to shop once it’s online. Not only are most apps not represented in the current version, but there’s no search function, so you can’t even tell what you’re not seeing. The only way to find these apps is to use your Android phone. (Funny, we thought Google sort of, you know, “got” the web.)

So why would Google wait so long before launching the web-based Android marketplace? The obvious answer is that, knowing how inferior its selection is to that of iTunes, the company didn’t want to reveal how few applications it had.

Apple has continued to run away with the app market, with over 300,000 apps listed, putting Google way behind, in second place. However, according to CNN, the Android marketplace has over ten times as many apps as those in RIM Blackberry App World or the Ovi by Nokia app store. Perhaps Google thinks that letting people know how far Android apps lags behind Apple’s iOS apps isn’t so bad, when Nokia and Blackberry — which both enjoy significant chunks of the smartphone market — are much further behind.

It’s ridiculous that Android users have had to search for apps on their phones, rather than being able to use their computer’s large screen, mouse, and keyboard. If MobiFlip is right, Google intends to solve that problem, at last — even though it means letting the rest of the world see what is (and isn’t) in its app store.

Screenshot courtesy of Google