Prism, Mozilla’s take on desktop web apps

Mozilla Labs released today Prism, a rebranded version of WebRunner, a Mozilla-based application for running single web applications.

On the name change, Mozilla’s Alex Faaborg comments:

most people aren’t going to semantically disambiguate terms the same way we do. For mainstream users, “running” means faster than jogging, and similarly “execution” involves killing people. The name Prism references a real world metaphor for splitting something apart.

Like WebRunner, Prism 0.8 allows to quickly create web application definition files (.webapp) with instructions on where to load the application from, an icon and other parameters.

This new version adds support for CSS themes for customizing the look of the application, for example, to better fit in your operating system. Spell checking has also been added as well as options to show or hide the location and status bars.When Prism is started directly (instead of launching a .webapp file), it prompts a dialog to enter a web address, an application name and set a few options including where to create shortcut icons.

Together with Microsoft and Adobe, this is definitely being the year web apps arrive to the desktop. However, a fundamental difference is highlighted by Mozilla Labs:

Unlike Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight, we’re not building a proprietary platform to replace the web. We think the web is a powerful and open platform for this sort of innovation, so our goal is to identify and facilitate the development of enhancements that bring the advantages of desktop apps to the web platform.

Prism is initially available for Windows only but Linux and Mac OS X versions should follow shortly.
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