Mozilla Prism – A Revolution in Web Apps

Mozilla is on a spree to revolutionize the way we use web applications today. I had mentioned a brief post on Mozilla WebRunner. Naming it as a killer app just wasn’t doing justice to it. So I felt an urge to bring to the notice that it isn’t just any other app.It will be, probably the next biggest thing that the web will be seeing after Ajax.

Ajax had redefined the web application just a couple of years ago. It definitely changed in the way web apps were being developed. This promoted rise of different interesting possibilities that more than widened the eyeball of a regular surfer. Web Operating Systems were at that time being touted as being able to replace the desktop operating system altogether in the future. But all these breath taking ideas have fallen flat to a place where the idea is still traditional. The usage of web browser.

Web applications have and still are web applications and I have not come upon any idea so simple yet so revolutionizing as the WebRunner. To update you upon the news surrounding WebRunner, Mozilla has converted the WebRunner project to a Mozilla Labs Project with a new fascinating name, Prism. When I saw Web Runner I was not amazed at this app itself. My mind was already seeing the future of web applications. It’s behavior was similar to the nature of a desktop application. Yet it ran on the web! It was the perfect example of how we can expect to put our web applications for our future projects.

Mozilla Prism

I think I may be a little too far a bit sooner, but I can see how Prism an impact our surfing lives. Imagine a day, you start your computer in just a moment, without any startup utilities coming in the picture. You have several Prism apps lying on your desktop. You double click an application and it is launched in another moment. This is something I am dreaming of, something which will definitely be backed by todays high speed connectivity and robust network infrastructure.

Well,a question in your mind would be how would Mozilla’s Prism contribute here. The direction I am seeing for Prism is not something out of context from my dream. A lite browser without the unnecessary facilities of the browser like the back button, the menu bar, the history, the bookmarks which only matter while surfing web sites. Prism is just enough to provide the basic foundation for connecting to the web, minus the normal browser behavior, yet retaining the background services like session management and security. Web applications don’t need them and all the more should not be taken care when they are being designed.

Web Apps with Mozilla Prism

Prism comes to mind when we require a web application to work in their own self with the support of the design which the web application has itself provided and not that of the browser. This is a thing of the past where web applications are designed with a thought process of developing a web site. Kind of traditional way which considered styling, the cross browser compatibility and many other aspects which form a part of the web site and not of the web application.

With Prism I am sure that one day the project would take us to a time where web applications would not require any HTML, CSS or JavaScript. It would be just like designing a desktop application just as we do it currently in .NET and Eclipse IDE’s. Drag and drop your required widget, give a theme for the app, and execute the app in Prism and later distribute it as a web application. The users of the Prism would just have the need to Prism app installed on their system. This is just like Java where only the JVM needs to be installed and the Java Programs come to life. Similarly install Prism and the required web application will come to its life. Isn’t this a great feeling in itself?

12 thoughts on “Mozilla Prism – A Revolution in Web Apps

  1. In the end, it’s just a web browser.

    Btw, you missed the part that just might make Prism a bit different –

    “… we’re also working to increase the capabilities of those apps by adding functionality to the Web itself, such as providing support for offline data storage and access to 3D graphics hardware.”

  2. Okay, so, essentially it’s a chromeless window. I don’t get howthis is “revolutionary” or the “next big thing”. This was an IE4/5/5.5/6 (pre XP-SP2) feature, back then, only IE let the developer strip out the chrome, and mod the window to look and act exactly as we wanted it to. Of course, everyone else hated it.

    Windows did things similar to this with ActiveDesktop, which was introduced in what, win98?

    Essentially this does what, add to IE’s chromeless window the ability to be launched from a shortcut (this was doable from activedesktop, but was seldom worth the trouble, because there was no analog for it on other platforms).

    There has to be more to it than this, otherwise I don’t see how this is supposed to even dream of competing with Adobe’s AiR, or Microsoft’s Silverlight (which leverage the Adobe and .NEt frameworks, respectively) or even Flash, given we’ve had the ability to just double-click on .swf files for years.

    Really, this isn’t revolutionary, nor is it new, and it’s hardly a killer app. It’s web development from almost 10 years ago. End users hated it then, they might like it now, but that doesn’t make it new, revolutionary, nor innovative. We had Ajax, back then as well. We just called it DHTML.

  3. @Bob
    I might have not put my message properly but I am just stating that WebRunner might be revolutionary in the sense that it empowers a webapp to be coded in a fashion which eliminated the rudimentary process of having the most obvious features namely, security, caching specifics, history management.

    If we get a standard where the standards themselves implement these features and we develop the webapp just to implement out business logic. Do you get this?

    Lets say take the flash player. Do you see the options like Play, Stop, Zoom in of the player. These options are not created by the flash app developer. They are the part of the player itself. Likewise I am saying if some standard comes in existance just for web apps, then we would be relieved of mundane tasks as for coding for the back button, caching, security which then would be a part of the player (webrunner) itself.

  4. HTA is Hypertext Application πŸ™‚

    Windows has several apps like this built-in.
    Find ur PC for *.hta and i’m pretty much sure at least one will pop up. πŸ™‚

  5. @nitinpai

    ok…i can see your point. but none of the “apps” available now take advantage of that.

    however, as it is, there don’t seem to be any of these ‘webapps’ that are taking advantage of that. for example, when i went to the prism wiki, i noticed that they have a list of ‘webapps’…like Gmail. so i click on that, i set it up in prism, and then it opens up Gmail in what is essentially a chromeless browser window. that’s great and all, especially since i use Gmail so much. it’s nice to just have a desktop shortcut to it and it goes. other than opening that single thing, though, i don’t see how it’s any more or less efficient than opening up a browser and then going there by way of a bookmark.

    i thought, ‘well maybe if i open it in prism, it’ll take up less system resources than the good ol’ firefox resource hog’, but i was wrong. it takes up about 28 megs of memory…about the same as if i were to open it up in firefox.

    maybe i’m missing something. i don’t disagree with in that it certainly has potential…but i think ajax applications hit on the revolutionary idea that you are eluding to.

  6. whoops…sorry for the redundancy at the beginning of my post… πŸ™‚ hehe! got distracted when i went to look between FF and prism running in the task manager… πŸ˜‰

  7. @andrew – I am not talking about Prism from the user’s perspective. I am seeing a potential in this idea from the web application perspective. How much easier it would be for a web developer to just say that he need some forms for the app and configure them in an xml. When the user access the app the xml file would tell Prism to render a form. In this case the rendering layout would be decided by the user according to his convenience. That would make the app to just contain the logic and not rendering stuff like CSS Javascript. Wouldn’t that be great!

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