Prism 1.0 Beta Launches With New Website

Eighteen months ago, we introduced an experimental project called Prism with the goal to “to bridge the divide in the user experience between web applications and desktop apps and to explore new usability models as the line between traditional desktop and new web applications continues to blur.”

Today we are pleased to announce the release of the beta version of Prism 1.0. It’s the culmination of more than a year of real-world use by companies like Yahoo! Zimbra, DesignLinks International and many others.

Tens of thousands of end users have installed Prism-enabled sites. Based on their feedback, as well as the experience of website creators, we’ve added new features to bring the user experience of web apps even closer to that of their desktop counterparts. We are particularly excited by these features because they’ve been informed by the many real-world applications currently using Prism:

  • New API functionality for allowing Prism-enabled web sites more desktop like power.
  • Ability to set fonts, proxy settings and other application-specific settings.
  • The ability to clear private data on demand.
  • Applications are automatically updated when new Prism versions are available.
  • Tray icon support, as well as submenus for dock and system tray menus.
  • Full OS X 10.4 support, and further OS X specific enhancement.
  • Support for SSL exceptions.

You can find out more about Prism 1.0 beta and download the standalone version and Firefox extension from our new Prism website at

The ability to run stand-alone web apps and access them like normal desktop apps provides instant benefits to end users. However, a number of the advantages are only available when software developers take advantage of Prism-specific features. With the release of Prism 1.0 beta we are ready to start fostering an ecosystem that makes it easier for developers to create and distribute compelling web app bundles.

Prism Retrospective

The initial version of Prism was more of a prototype, a foundation on which to build out additional features to improve web app usability.

In March 2008, we released Prism 0.9 with numerous improvements:

  • Each application runs with its own profile, making it possible to run multiple apps simultaneously.
  • The web app favicon is used to provide an application icon if no alternative is provided by the user.
  • The first desktop integration features made an appearance. These included popup notifications and dock badging. A special JavaScript file called webapp.js contains Prism-specific code for customizing a web app.
  • A Firefox extension made it possible to create new Prism apps directly from the browser. This is a very convenient and natural way to use Prism.
  • Under the hood, we moved to the same build system used by Firefox and other Mozilla products. This makes hacking Prism much easier for developers familiar with the Mozilla environment.

Desktop integration features are key to achieving the Prism vision. With the
experimental Prism 0.9.1 version, released last October, these features were significantly expanded:

  • System tray icon support on Windows.
  • Minimize and close applications to the system tray.
  • Dock and tray icon menus on OS X and Windows.
  • Protocol handlers for associating Prism apps with specific URL schemes like mailto:

Prism 0.9.1 also represented a major step forward in Mozilla’s commitment to supporting all major platforms. OS X support, which was problematic in previous releases, was completely revamped to ensure that Prism apps running on OS X behave like other native applications.

Get Involved

Mozilla Labs is a virtual lab where people come together online to create, experiment and play with Web innovations for the public benefit. The Prism experiment is in production use today by thousands of people around the world, however, there is still much to explore. There are many ways to join the team and get involved:

  • Play around with the current prototype and let us know what you think
  • Report a bug
  • Grab the source code and fix a bug or add a feature
  • Discuss, debate and add to the design in the Prism discussion group
  • Join us in #labs on

Matthew Gertner on behalf of the Prism development team.

21 responses

  1. tantos wrote on :

    hi prism developer,
    it would be nice if in default prism is disabling offline mode.
    sometimes webapps only local area network or maybe localhost, and not connected to internet everytime.

  2. Martijn Coppoolse wrote on :

    WTF happened to the sidebar? That was about Prism’s only advantage vs. Chrome… It’s ideal for combining Google Calendar and Remember the Milk! Or anything with a related site’s mobile or iPhone version…

    /me going back to 0.9.1… 🙁

  3. Jay wrote on :

    I’m getting a dialog that reads “unresponsive script”… on Waiting doesn’t work, I have to cancel the script. I don’t get this on FireFox or IE. Don’t know if this is more of a prism problem or the website in question.

    I also saw memory usage on (a flash-based music player) get up to 140 MB before I excited the process. That seems a little steep.

  4. John Hilla wrote on :

    I notice & depend on browser pops that force FF to load separately. Therefore in cases like this, a built in tab bar for the app is required. Chrome has this built in for web apps.

  5. cesar santamaria wrote on :

    Honestly I don’t like the add-on concept on Prism. My belief is that add-ons should enrich the browsing experience. I don’t see Prism as a browsing experience, but more app-oriented. Maybe extensions will not fit the concept.

    What I REALLY want in Prism, is capability of “clean private data”. I haven’t been able to do it since v0.8!

  6. Steve wrote on :

    Brilliant, this is great stuff 🙂

    Is it possible for prisim to be better integrated with Firefox so you have a “make this website an application” option in Firefox, ala Chrome…?

  7. mgertner wrote on :


    Clear Private Data is available to developers but not yet visible in the user interface (we’ll add this).

  8. Yongbin wrote on :

    Thanks! The beta is wonderful!
    However I have a problem with the extension install in prism. For example in my firefox I use better-gmail, which is the extension I want to also run in the Gmail app generated by Prism. I got an error in Gmail-app tools-addons: cannot get extensions.

  9. Michael Riley wrote on :

    I’m glad to see mozilla diving headfirst into the field of desktop / browser hybrid apps, AIR / Chrome already provide a solid base for things to get rolling, but this is a market that is sorely in need of competition to drive innovation.

  10. Television Spy wrote on :

    Wow congratulations, it looks great. Excited and looking forward to building on the Prism platform.

  11. notactuallybutscrewithisemailgotlefthereJosh wrote on :

    @Tyler you can install adblock in prism and other xulrunner apps

  12. Josh wrote on :

    Hi, I have been trying out the new prism, but I can’t see ‘The ability to clear private data on demand’ — am I missing something? In the preferences (from the bottom corner of the prism app) I see fonts and proxy settings, and but nothing to clear the data on demand…

  13. Aymeric Brisse wrote on :

    Bug on Windows 7 : Tray icon support doesn’t work and make the page stay empty on launch.

  14. Pino wrote on :

    I think Thunderbird might better move to Prism as well. With the Thunderbird database being stored on Mozilla servers, it would have an edge again, which imo it has lost now (I used to use Thunderbird, but switched back to webmail). For those disliking the idea of storing data online, having the database locally should still be an option, but changing the email app from desktop to online would be a good change I think.

  15. Philippe wrote on :

    What about transparent windows – like Adobe AIR?

  16. KardanBlog wrote on :

    Wonderful 🙂

  17. Dimitris wrote on :

    I think that Prism is great and that it should be integrated into Firefox, just like Google Chrome.

  18. Mark wrote on :

    Prism should be just a tab in the future “multiprocess” Firefox.

  19. Tyler wrote on :

    Will it eventually be possible to use all Firefox add-ons in Prism? I keep wanting to separate web apps from the browser, but with a lack of important add-ons like Google Gears and AdBlock Plus, I keep going back to just opening them in Firefox.

  20. Elijah Grey wrote on :

    Is there any plan on adding support for W3 Widgets integration?

  21. Marco Di Fresco wrote on :

    Congratulations for the first beta!

    Generally I use a “personally bloated” version of Firefox for surfing the net, but there are cases where a streamed down window for some web-apps is much better.