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 prism.mozilla.com.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 irc.mozilla.org
— Matthew Gertner on behalf of the Prism development team.