Take Your Web Apps Out of the Browser with Mozilla's Prism

by Ostatic Staff - May. 14, 2009

Fresh out of the Mozilla Labs oven this week is a beta version of Prism, a new incarnation of WebRunner that integrates Web applications with the desktop. The idea behind Prism starts with from the premise that as more people move their computing activities to the cloud, users will become increasingly dependent on Web apps designed to replace locally-based email, calendaring, and word processing.

The problem is, running these types of apps in a Web browser adds clutter and unecessary steps to what should be a straightforward user experience. Mozilla wants to eliminate that particular pain point and streamline the way we use Web-based applications.

Depending on your preference, you can use Prism as a Firefox extension or a standalone application that lives on your computer. Creating an application from a Web site is a simple one- or two-click affair.

So, what's so appealing about running Web apps in a separate window that's accessible from the desktop? Mozilla says there are plenty of advantages:

* New API functionality for allowing Prism-enabled web sites more desktop like power.

* Ability to set fonts, proxy settings and other application-specific settings.

* The ability to clear private data on demand.

* Applications are automatically updated when new Prism versions are available.

* Tray icon support, as well as submenus for dock and system tray menus.

* Full OS X 10.4 support, and further OS X specific enhancement.

* Support for SSL exceptions.

I took Prism for a spin and, although I really wanted to like it, I was underwhelmed. There are probably some real-world applications of Prism that I'm overlooking, but aside from having an app reside in my dock instead of a browser tab I don't know of any compelling reason I'd use it. I use Google's offline Gmail option to read my email, and switch off my browser toolbar to reduce clutter while using other online apps.

That said, I encourage readers to download the Prism app or extension and give it a whirl. I'd love to be convinced of why I need it, so come back here and let me know in the comments.