Site specific browsers

Saturday, 22 December 2007

My interest was perked while I was checking out Prism the other day at Mozilla Labs.

Prism (formerly known as Webrunner), a site specific browser from Mozilla, allows publishers to distribute “webapp” archives that specify a website to load in a stripped down browser. It also lets publishers add some extra features on the client side to do some tricks to make the website behave more desktop-like.

From labs.mozilla.com regarding Prism: “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.

Here’s a sample website (read that as web application) loaded inside of Prism on KDE:


When seeing this I thought to myself… this was attainable years ago using Xulrunner… For example (and just for fun), I grabbed a “widget like” build of Exch from the middle of 2006, removed most of the UI elements and dropped in a xul “browser” tag that pointed to the same website as the one referenced in the Prism.webapp screenshot above:


The majority of the chrome is removed and a couple “html:canvas” tags are included in the main xul file to draw the rounded borders and the “x” in the top right (clickable for closing). The results are very similar whether you keep the chrome or ditch it and change the borders to make it widget like inside the xul for Xulrunner. The major difference in my opinion is the ease of deployment with the Prism version. A small extension like .webapp archive of a website and a few client side scripts (if desired) to add desktop-likeness.

I am glad that Prism is being developed… It will allow publishers to push out site specific browser apps -far- easier than what it took to put together what I had done for the example above in Xulrunner. It also adds to the huge pool of exciting technologies developing on the Internet these days.




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