While we await Microsoft's solution to the Hombrew community, something that will take a bit of a hit with NoDo (since ChevronWP7 won't work with it), developers are still going forward, regardless.

Over at XDA, developer kuerbis2 has laid the groundwork for a Homebrew Marketplace by releasing a new XAP installer and even more importantly, a protocol handler (like the “zune:”-URLs) called "wphome". That last bit sort of huge as it allows people to "register" their homebrew XAP files, thereby creating hyperlinks to allow easy distribution/installation of said files. The features so far are summarized as follows:

  • In-place update on the phone: In-place update on the phone, e.g. if you already have Version of an app installed on the phone and install an in-place update will performed. No more full "uninstall-new install" cycle required. Your settings, custom files etc. won't be removed (same as marketplace update)
  • Deploy from file or URL: You can either specify a file or an URL. If you enter an URL the installer will automatically download the xap.
  • Own protocol "wphome": Zune's one-click download for homebrew apps. Automatically install homebrew XAPs with a click on a hyperlink. If you want, you can register the application for the wphome protocol. The application will then be allowed to handle urls like wphome:www.test.com/test.xap and will automatically start as soon as you click on such a link

Like we said, this is pretty big news as no one has gone this far in creating a framework for a homebrew marketplace. If enough devs adopt this protocol (and we see little reason why they should not), then we'll have a standard for distribution, as opposed to just attachments in a forum. Of course, people still need a way to side-load applications i.e. developer unlocked without paying $99 a year--for that we'll have to wait for Microsoft to provide a solution, otherwise the homebrew community will be forever niche. Stay tuned for more...

Source: XDA; Thanks, Tobias, for the tip!