Google launched a new look for its Android Market today at an event at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., including a long-missing and much-requested Web-based version. Available at http://market.android.com, the new marketplace features a robust search tool and allows users to install apps directly from the Web.
Having an Android device isn't required to access the new marketplace, although you obviously won't be able to install apps without one. To get started, visit the market and log in using your Google account, the same as the one you use for your phone or tablet. You can browse app categories on the left, or filter by tabs showcasing featured apps, top paid apps, and top free apps.
When the Market debuted earlier in the day, most people saw "invalid request" messages when attempting to log in. A tweet from the Android development account indicated that Google had begun working on the problem, and by 12:15 p.m. PT most were able to log in successfully. It's not clear at this time whether the delay was caused by an overload of people attempting to access it at the same time, delays in syncing users' apps, or other unknown problems.
One of the keys with the Market is to log in using the same account that's been associated with your mobile device, since your apps are now synced directly to that Gmail account.
Once logged in, there's very little that's different to visually indicate that you've successfully logged in. You can tell, though, because the upper right corner of the Web page will show your e-mail address and a link to "My Market Account". Click it and you're taken to a My Orders tab that lists all your installed apps. These are organized by date last updated, the name of the app, category, price, and status. Currently, these headings can only be sorted by date, although it looks like the kind of layout that will receive an update with more sort parameters in the future.
A second tab labeled Settings currently shows only a list of the devices associated with your account. It shows Nickname, Visibility, Make, Model, Carrier, Last used, and Registered on date. Clicking the Edit button on the right lets you give the device a nickname, and choose whether to hide the device from Android menus. Users who have rooted their devices and are running custom ROMs will not see data for Make and Model.
It appears that multiple, simultaneous account log-ins, a feature recently pushed to Gmail, are not supported.
At the top of the new Market lives a persistent and slick search option. Enter a query and a black bar appears between the bottom of the search box and your results. Click it to reveal search filters to narrow your results. You can install an app directly from the results, or click through to learn more about each app. When you do hit the install link, the Market will let you choose which device to install the app to, as well as show you a list of permissions that the app uses, and its cost. You can also push an app to multiple devices as long as they're associated under the same account.
At least on Verizon's 3G network, an app I installed from the Web site began downloading within 60 seconds of hitting the install button. This was also reflected in the My Orders list. However, it took me jumping into the Market app itself before the new app would appear on my phone. It's not clear whether this is part of the app store's regular behavior, a factor of heavy Market traffic, or another cause entirely.
Previously, the app-to-account sync and push had only been available through third-party markets. The new Android Market does lack features that third-party markets like AppBrain offer, such as customized app lists and uninstallation.
Update, 11:25 a.m. PT: Added Twitter comment from AndroidDev. Update, 1:00 p.m. PT: Noted that the Android Market now appears to be accessible to most users, if not all, and added details on how to use the new Market.