Mozilla turns web apps into desktop software

Mozilla Labs has released an early prototype of its Prism application, which aims to bring web applications onto the desktop.

Mozilla turns web apps into desktop software

The program allows users to create a desktop shortcut to web applications, which then open in a window devoid of the usual browser clutter. For all intents and purposes, it creates a desktop application out of any website.

“Half of the applications we interact with are client side desktop applications, and half are online web applications. This means that half of the applications, regardless of what they are, are currently trapped inside of a web browser,” says Alex Faaborg, a contributor to the project, in a blog post.

This could be useful for users who often switch between working with desktop and web apps. If you regularly use GMail, for example, it can now be treated in the same way as any desktop application is.

Mozilla is also developing an add-on to Firefox that will enable users to create a Prism application of any website with one click.

We tested Prism with a range of web applications, including GMail and Facebook. Both ran without a problem, which is unsurprising considering that Prism is based upon Mozilla’s existing rendering code.

There is little functional difference between using an application in a browser window or in Prism, but the ability to treat GMail like a desktop program is interesting. Certain sites, such as Flickr, could also lend themselves to being treated as a standalone program. The project might also help Mozilla with its aim of allowing users to run web apps offline, a feature which is scheduled to arrive in Firefox 3 next year.

Prism is based upon the existing Webrunner project, but has now been moved into the Mozilla Labs code repository and renamed. Currently the prototype is only available on Windows, but Mac and Linux versions will be released in the near future.

Click here to test the Prism software.

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