A Step Back – Mozilla Prism

Mozilla Prism logo.

Mozilla Prism is one of the most recent projects sitting in Mozilla labs – and one that completely stumps me.

Not only do I think that Prism really defines the word ‘uselss’ I also think it is a dangerous step BACK in time for technology progression.

Hold that thought, I’ll make one exception to its usefulness: It’s great for Kiosk applications, but since I feel that Kiosk applications are a dying breed anyway, that means little.

So what does Prism do?

From Mozilla:

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

What Prism does is create an installable application. After you install it, and click on the icon, it loads a slimmed-down version of Firefox showing a single website on your computer. It shows without the user-chrome (the toolbars and junk around your browser).

So… in a nutshell, Prism is a much more complicated way of doing something that is already extremely simple:

1. Dragging a link from your browser to your desktop. (Much simpler than installing)
2. Clicking a link when you want to go to a site.
3. Hitting F11 in Firefox to make the user-chrome hide.

Except, of course, that doing it the easy way means you can still use tabs. Doing it the Prism way means you can only have one web site at a time.

This is progress… how?

Desktop applications are dead. They have been for a while now. Internet applications are the future from now onward.

Having to install an application is something people don’t want to have to do. Having to download updates is also something we want gone.

I know that grates on some developers, particularly people who are very fond of writing desktop applications because that’s what they know how to do. I understand that it’s depressing to think that something you learned to do really well is no longer needed. But that’s what happens sometimes when progress comes about. Trust me, you can get over it. 10 years ago I was writing desktop applications. Today, I would never waste my time with it.

What I don’t understand is why Mozilla would have a project that does something which is very anti-progress.

So here are some of my questions:

1. Currently to visit Gmail (for example) I can click a link and open it up. Why would I want to download and install something to achieve the same thing?

2. Firefox has tabs – why would I want to lose them?

3. Why would I want to install something, when installing something inherently means it is only available on that one computer?

4. If I really want to install something, why not install one of the many Firefox extensions that will allow me to have even ‘full screen’ stuff hidden or work in Kiosk mode?

In a nutshell, I’m confused by Prism.

I don’t see a usefulness for it aside from the random person building a Kiosk application.


2 Replies to “A Step Back – Mozilla Prism”

  1. Hello Nicole,
    I have a web application that is session-based, and when things go bad, usually, one of the best ways out (from the client POV) is to kill the session and start afresh. since session is per browser per client, what it means is that if I have multiple tabs running, I will need to close all tabs and restart the browser. But I may have a very important session to a different service that I dont want to lose. It becomes very useful if I could have this application independent of others, by running it standalone.

    sometimes, it is not everyone who is savvy enough to realize that a web application has a better presentation when the viewpoint is not distorted by countless toolbars and extension bars that have no role for that specific application. If we could have a less ‘busy’ client (browser) for accessing the application, this can improve greatly the user experience.

    We can go on giving many examples where a stripped-down browser for a standalone application can provide a richer experience.

    For these reasons, a project like Prism can be very handy for deploying certain web applications.

    On the other hand, if all you do on the web is standard browsing of websites, then Prism is not meant for you, and blogging about it may as well be a waste of your time.

    I hope this helps

  2. The only thing that needs to be installed is Prism, and you only do it once.
    “Installing web applications” means only the creation of a desktop shortcut.

    Prism is also available as a Firefox extension.

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