Mozilla Prism – The Best of Both Worlds

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Mozilla is launching a series of experiments to bridging the divide in the User Experience of Web Apps and Desktop Apps. Here Mozilla uses open platform to facilitate the development enhancements of desktop apps to the web platform. Through this blog post you will discover Prism and how we as developers can better contribute to this Project…

The first of these experiments is based on Webrunner, which we’ve moved into the Mozilla Labs code repository and renamed to Prism.



Prism is an application that lets users split web applications out of their browser and run them directly on their desktop.


Prism lets users add their favorite web apps to their desktop environment:


When invoked, these applications run in their own window:


They are accessible with Control-Tab, Command-Tab, and Exposé, just like desktop apps. And users can still access these same applications from any web browser when they are away from their own computers.

The Best of Both Worlds

Prism isn’t a new platform, it’s simply the web platform integrated into the desktop experience. Web developers don’t have to target it separately, because any application that can run in a modern standards-compliant web browser can run in Prism. Prism is built on Firefox, so it supports rich internet technologies like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

And while Prism focuses on how web apps can integrate into the desktop experience, 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.


The User Experience

We’re also thinking about how to better integrate Prism with Firefox, enabling one-click “make this a desktop app” functionality that preserves a user’s preferences, saved passwords, cookies, add-ons, and customizations. Ideally you shouldn’t even have to download Prism, it should just be built into your browser.


We’re working on an extension for Firefox that provides some of this functionality. For more information about the user experience we hope to achieve in Prism, see Alex Faaborg’s blog post. For some of the technical details and new features found in Prism, see Mark Finkle’s blog post.

Getting Started with Prism

We have an early prototype for this working today on Windows, with work continuing on Mac and Linux (for which we should have builds available soon).

To try out the prototype, download and install it: Download Prism for Windows.

Then start Prism. It will display an Install Web Application dialog.


Enter the URL of the application you want to use in Prism (e.g., a name for the application (e.g. Gmail), and pick where you’d like to create shortcuts to the application.

Then press the OK button. Prism will create shortcuts to the application in the locations you specified and then start the application.

How to Get Involved

Prism is just the first of many experiments we hope to conduct around improving the usability of web applications. It’s open source, like everything we do, and we’re interested in hearing from and working with anyone interested in further developing this concept.

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