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Mozilla Labs announces Prism

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On Friday, Mozilla Labs’ announced Prism, their entry into the budding market-trend of platforms for running web applications on the desktop, similar to Adobe AIR. Prism is based on an existing Mozilla project called Webrunner. The The Mozilla Labs’ posting announcing the new product describes it this way:
Prism is an application that lets users split web applications out of their browser and run them directly on their desktop.

… Prism isn’t a new platform, it’s simply the web platform integrated into the desktop experience. Web developers don’t have to target it separately, because any application that can run in a modern standards-compliant web browser can run in Prism. Prism is built on Firefox, so it supports rich internet technologies like  HTML, JavaScript, CSS, , and <canvas> and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
The Mozilla Labs’ posting compares it to Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight:
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.

And while Prism focuses on how web apps can integrate into the desktop experience, we’re also working to increase the capabilities of those apps by adding functionality to the Web itself, such as providing support for offline data storage and access to 3D graphics hardware.
Mike Chambers of Adobe Systems responded in his blog to the AIR comparison in the Prism announcement, wondering about the “proprietary” label when he perceives the two products as very similar:
You could describe Adobe AIR in exactly the same way (just replace Prism with Adobe AIR and Firefox with Webkit).

So, I guess the thing I found odd was Mozilla appears to be building something very similar to Adobe AIR (which is fine and cool), but somehow it is inherently good when Mozilla does it, and inherently evil when Adobe does it.
Mike Potter of Adobe joined the conversation, noting that Prism helps to validate the AIR/Desktop model:
However, some similarities certainly exist, and its nice to see people acknowledging the same problems - its good validation for what AIR does.
The Mozilla announcement concludes on a positive note for all developers, describing a goal the entire software community shares of ‘improving the usability of web applications’:
Prism is just the first of many experiments we hope to conduct around improving the usability of web applications. It’s open source, like everything we do, and we’re interested in hearing from and working with anyone interested in further developing this concept.
Ultimately, the developer community will validate or invalidate the programming model and the vendors who are working to provide the platforms.

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