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Mozilla Tests Integrated Desktop Browser

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the interweb-on-your-desktop dept.

Mozilla 156

HelloDotJPEG writes "Mozilla Labs, the organisation's experimental arm, has launched Prism for interested Windows users to try out. Prism is a piece of software which integrates web applications such as Gmail or Google Reader into the desktop. The program enables you to run multiple such sites as though they were local applications, each in their own dedicated browser window. The product isn't entirely new, but is an officially adopted and rebranded update to the Site-Specific Browser project WebRunner (not to be confused with XULRunner upon which it is built). From the site: '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 and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. 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.'"

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Hmm (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127399)

"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"

And thus it was so, that viruses became even more abundant, and 3D accelerated.

Re:Hmm (3, Funny)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127455)

I'm no expert in history, but couldn't that be the beginning of a completely new platform that'd allow developers to securely and consentually install real apps and in-browser controls that'd run natively on the user's computer?
That'd be great! And with just a little bit of effort I'm sure it could surpass the feature-richness and security Microsoft's implementation of this process (they call it ActiveX).

Re:Hmm (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127513)

I think firefox call that 'extensions' or 'plugins'

Re:Hmm (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128415)

I thought it was called Java...

With engines like jME popping up 3D is pretty much there already. You only need the runtime. This is what I don't understand about Silverlight and Air. They both combine other software packages (coincidentally all controlled by the same company) to perform the same tasks a competent (sometimes incompetent) programmer can already do. I guess the key here is that it's "Web technology" driven. But is that really a good thing?

Re:Hmm (1)

nilbud (1155087) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128189)

It's called keeping up, what with google gears, ms silver, AIR(formerly known as apollo) and all the groovyness in KDE4. If you are a windows type go to http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/air/ [adobe.com] for a tasty treat.

Re:Hmm (2, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128375)

Ah but wait till you see ActiveY, it's going to be great ! It'll have synergy and virtualization !

Re:Hmm (1)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127495)

Of course there are always security concerns... but as successful as the web browser has been, I'm eager to see a new standard framework for internet based applications (notice I didn't say web-based.) JavaScript is too clunky to be a good language to program in and the whole html/css/javascript paradigm is something of a mess when it comes to implementing an application that's suppose to "feel" like a desktop app. I know java was suppose to help this but that fell flat and asp.net (which I do a lot of programming in...) is a mess.

I love the idea of a new app that can fully utilize the capabilities of my computer (3d, storage, etc), but I think sticking with the html/web model is probably not the way to do it.


XSS more of a concern than virus (2, Interesting)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127621)

I don't care much about viruses, running Linux and all ... however XSS (cross-site scripting) is more of a concern. And site-specific browsers could be a good way to limit their reach, if they keep one set of cookies each.

Re:Hmm (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127951)

I don't see why this accelerates the propagation of viruses faster than people trusting those applications through a browser. The main difficulty would be people letting down their guard because they forget they are using a web application, but that depends on them being on their guard.

One interesting possibility this approach raises is finer user control of information sent to servers aside from the primary application server. This could lead to users sending different cookies from different applications, thus complicating efforts for advertisers to aggregate information about their web use. This would have good effects (privacy) and bad effects (undermining ad supported services).

Still, for many sites you could add default security policies that would catch problems like cross site scripting. You could disable submission of form data to other servers by default -- you could even cleanse the http referrer header of form data that might leak session ids or even password data that are encoded in get parameters. Such default policies would violate required behavior of a general purpose browsing application, but give the user a measure of protection when he uses an application that happens to be delivered by html over http.

Re:Hmm (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128089)

Most users don't even have a 'guard' to let down..

Data Storage coming in HTML5 (1)

slashd'oh (234025) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128319)

Data storage is not a new concept; it's part of the HTML5 specification [whatwg.org] (a.k.a. Web Apps 1.0) [Note: that URL seems to have some script issues...] and it is already implemented in the recent WebKit nightly builds [webkit.org] .

Re:Data Storage coming in HTML5 (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128469)

Oh, I know it's definitely not a new concept for web browsing, I remember I used to have strange executable files appearing in C:\ when I used to browse inappropriate sites on IE in my younger days..

Re:Hmm (2, Funny)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128619)

Well, at least this means that consumer desktops will finally catch up with Hollywood in terms of viruses being little more than 3D eye-candy. Witness Swordfish's superb 3D IDE where you write a virus by fitting transparent lego bricks together. Heck, in Independence Day Jeff Golblum even went to the effort of figuring out how alien monitors worked just so that he could project a spinning skull and crossbones on their screens just to let them know the mothership was hosed. I hear for his next trick he tried to get an open source mail client to talk to Exchange via MAPI, but couldn't find a video card powerful enough to power the 38-monitor workstation needed to hold all the alpha-blended hexagons.

Re:Hmm (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128765)

I hear for his next trick he tried to get an open source mail client to talk to Exchange via MAPI


Yeah, those movie plots are always so unrealistic

I don't get it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21127409)

What's the point of having a website in a standalone application? Dumbest thing I have seen in a while.

Re:I don't get it (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127537)

You're doing it wrong.

"This is the dumbest thing I've heard since I started at Microsoft"

Re:I don't get it (2, Funny)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127639)

Wrong again.

"This is the dumbest fucking idea I've heard since I've been at Microsoft"

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128061)

Alright, alright. But it is actually a little bit more than just a stand-alone firefox-window with some web-app in it.

Woohoo! (4, Funny)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127431)

As always, the innovation over at Mozilla is incredible. After only months of intense development they managed to build an application that's like a browser except it's only a Gecko control in a window. No tabs, no anything.
I'm sure it would've taken years to build a similar application using .NET's Browser Control.

Re:Woohoo! (5, Interesting)

ztransform (929641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127671)

But my question is: will I have to shut down all my prism applications if I want to restart the browser engine? Or will all prism apps run as a separate instance..

Woohoo indeed! (2, Insightful)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127681)

I'm sure it would've taken years to build a similar application using .NET's Browser Control.

The site-specific browsers are full Mozilla browsers, they simply have some chrome removed.

But you are absolutely right that a Windows developer would likely take the .NET browser control and try to put something like this together in VisualStudio. And the result would suck because it's not the same thing. And that highlights a common problem with Windows developers: they don't think things through properly and instead take the obvious path that Microsoft has laid out for them.

So, although it was meant as sarcasm, you are right: it would take a .NET developers years to do this, and it still wouldn't work as well.

Re:Woohoo indeed! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128477)

"And that highlights a common problem with Windows developers: they don't think things through properly and instead take the obvious path that Microsoft has laid out for them. "

And that highlights a common problem with Slashdot posters: they don't think things through properly and instead take the obvious path that Microsoft bashers have laid out for them.

Fixed.

Re:Woohoo indeed! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128687)

This isn't a question of Microsoft bashing; Microsoft has tried web-based applications several times, and they have all been abysmal failures. Microsoft just doesn't know how to do this stuff, all they can do is copy.

Re:Woohoo indeed! (2, Informative)

Kihaji (612640) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129377)

Yeah, XMLHttpRequest, abysmal failure.

Re:Woohoo indeed! (1)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129543)

Nobody's using OWA then, right? Nice. Nobody's the Gov't of a many countries.

Re:Woohoo! (3, Interesting)

griffjon (14945) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127827)

This is indeed a great start; I'd also like to see Moz replicate (and take over) the embedded browser controls that many other Windows apps lean on IE's crutch for (Google Earth, Winamp, etc.)

Re:Woohoo! (1)

Hank Powers (467121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128389)

There is actually one [www.iol.ie] already. I don't know if it works with current versions of Gecko, however.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127871)

I'm sure it would've taken years to build a similar application using .NET's Browser Control.

And that similar application would run on OS X and Linux as well as Windows, right? Oops.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

narcolepticjim (310789) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127965)

Getting Started with Prism

We have an early prototype for this working today on Windows, with work continuing on Mac and Linux (for which we should have builds available soon).

To try out the prototype, download and install it: Download Prism for Windows.

Boy, you nailed it!

Oh, wait, were you talking about Silverlight?

Oops.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

monk.e.boy (1077985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127963)

Re-naming something no-one uses?

That isn't new technology or 'news for nerds'. It is PR and Link Bait.

Which they've done very well.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

gravis777 (123605) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128047)

Lovely, Mozilla is now offering a 3rd party solution to an idea that has been built into Windows since 98. How is this any different from right-clicking on the desktop, going to properties, desktop, customize desktop, web, other than the fact that it uses Mozilla?

Re:Woohoo! (4, Informative)

gravis777 (123605) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128097)

I hit submit before I was finished with my comment. I hate it when I do that. I hit submit, and then am like, dope, I wish I could edit that.

The prism interface is a bit prettier than active desktop, and after looking at the article, rather than the summery, it looks like what its doing is pretty much creating a hyperlink to the page in your start menu or something. I hate to say it, but I really do not see anything innovative here. Am I missing something?

Re:Woohoo! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128979)

It's just a fracking container. By itself, it's not going to do anything much.

If a web developer wanted to create a web-based app specifically to run in WebRunner, they could do that. XUL works just as well in there as HTML does. That would give you a native UI, with more control over the UI appearance, and support for things like menus, or other native XUL widgets.

Remember the offline web application stuff in Firefox 3? That applies here too - web apps will the able to use local data storage, and the browser will be able to keep the entire web app cached. Using that, you only need an internet connection available for the initial setup, which would probably be as simple as clicking a link. The idea is to keep giving better functionality to web applications, and allowing those applications to better integrate with the OS.

These web apps still run in the browser's security sandbox - despite installing them on your machine, you don't need to give them read and write access to the entire filesystem, and they can't contain native code to bypass the sandbox.

So, you click a link to install the app. The required cached files are downloaded, and a shortcut is created in the Windows start menu, or the KDE / Gnome menus, or Mac OS X's Applications directory, or wherever else. From then, it just works like a normal application, including (limited) access to local resources.

Besides, this was done by one guy. It's existed for around 7 months. It's basically a much simpler way to build XulRunner based applications, which requires virtually no Mozilla-specific code, and can work with any web-app. XulRunner can obviously do far more, because it doesn't run in that security sandbox.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

MasterOfCeremonies (853832) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129569)

Mod parent up, he's the only poster so far that actually seems to get it.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

tobiasly (524456) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128291)

After only months of intense development they managed to build an application that's like a browser except it's only a Gecko control in a window. No tabs, no anything.

Don't be so quick to dismiss this project; it's still in its very early stages. I'm sure that soon they will have an "integrated desktop browser" with tabs, bookmarks, an extensions framework, and automatic updates.

Oh, wait...

Neat idea (2, Interesting)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127459)

Dunno if i would ever use it. However if you were rolling out Googles web apps in an office enviroment then it might make life easier for the users. More of a desktop paradigm then a bunch of URLs.

Re:Neat idea (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128603)

The thing is, applications are moving away from the desktop and towards the web because of the users. They are they ones who think that Internet Explorer takes them to the entire Internet. They are the ones who don't understand that you can access the Internet in other ways.

I don't see this really catching on. One of the few good things about webmail is that it gives a consistent interface no matter where you are, and you don't have to install anything special in order to use it. Bringing applications back to the desktop is a step backwards from this, and while many of us don't think it's a bad thing, many users will not see this as advancement.

Wow, people are sick (2, Funny)

JeremyGNJ (1102465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127463)

Who would actually WANT something like this?

2 of the main reasons to run an application locally is so that you control your own data.....and don't have to look at ads. This looks like the worst of both worlds....right on your desktop.

Re:Wow, people are sick (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21127545)

What makes you think ABP won't get rid of the ads? I'm all for controlling my own data too, but it CAN be convenient to have access to your email regardless of where you are. Also, for apps that have no desktop analog, this might be more convenient than always having to pull up a web browser (it's amazing how much time most people spend in the web browser).

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

JeremyGNJ (1102465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127583)

You mean to tell me that Google....who pays for the vast majority of Mozilla....would allow them to block ads?

http://www.betanews.com/article/In_Browser_War_Its_Really_Google_vs_IE/1193252133

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128085)

Three words: Adblock Plus Plus

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129257)

Which brings up a good question: Does this Prism app include adblock/plugin support? If so, is it on a per-web-app basis or globally? It's virtually worthless if it doesn't.

Re:Wow, people are sick (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127571)

Nobody wants to use these. Really, nobody wants to use web based apps. They suck. They're clunky, they're slow, they put your data elsewhere. Some of them have ads. As a user, anything web based is just horrible. There are a few exceptions (some people prefer web mail because of anywhere availability, but a pure-web based app isn't needed for that. I've got a home IMAP server and can access via a web client when away, or via Thunderbird when I'm at home. best of both worlds).

That being said, as IT personnel, web based apps are great. The data is centralized (read: backed up), there are no extra apps to install, maintain, and configure on each desktop. Users can move from system to system (for example, from their main computer to a spare while one is in for maintenance) without any worry. It's a wonderful thing.

Re:Wow, people are sick (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127775)

You contradicted yourself a bit, but I think I understand. The techie users don't like web-based apps, but the non-techie users and the techie admins DO like them. And that's the answer.

Personally, even though I'm techie, I'm sick of running servers at my house. I'd much rather let Google run my mail, calendar, etc, and have a webhost for my site. I'm happy to pay a company for VOIP instead of running asterisk, and I don't have to worry about major downtime if my 'server' dies. It costs more, but the time I don't have to spend upgrading and maintaining hardware is worth it. I get to have fun at home, and all the essentials are 'off-site'.

In fact, one of the things I've been wishing lately was that I could get Firefox to run in 2 separate processes, since it tends to crash (lots of flash-based sites) and take down my work as well as my play stuff I'm doing. If this will keep them separate (on linux!) then I'm happy. Also, I've had times when I needed to use a proxy in 1 browser and not use a proxy in the other, and firefox doesn't like to do that even if you tunnel one from another computer. My current solution is to use Opera for 1, but that means I can't use a lot of my extras, like better-gmail and noscript.

Personally, I hope this works well. I don't think it's a revolution, but rather a nice feature.

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128039)

"current solution is to use Opera for 1, but that means I can't use a lot of my extras"

will the Opera 9.5 alpha help any of that?

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128459)

firefox -ProfileManager...
You can use multiple firefox profiles, and run several of them at once under the same user account.
It works better if you use different themes in each profile, so you can tell them apart.

Re:Wow, people are sick (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128577)

Yes, but if 1 crashes, do they all crash? That's the main issue.

Firefox appears to only let you use 1 profile at a time.

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128653)

I tend to use the Opera+Firefox solution. I use Opera for day-to-day browsing and Firefox for anything Flash other than Youtube. The only thing I miss in Opera is NoScript.

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127893)

Clunky and slow are relative. Stuff just works is absolute. In my experience, once people learn that their data is always backed up and available from any computer, that their apps are always up-to-date with no user updates needed, no version conflicts (should I use .doc or .docx?) and always look and behave the same on any computer they sit down at, and that stuff just works without any monkey business on their part (like the hassle of setting up VPN connections from every place they go) -- People I work with are willing to live with a little bit of clunky and slow in order to have all of those advantages.

Re:Wow, people are sick (5, Insightful)

pkey (651794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128519)

Who would actually WANT something like this?

My grandmother, or any of the users I support who are completely baffled by tabbed browsing.

My grandmother has a gmail account. In order for her to use it, I had to turn on POP for the account and set her up with Thunderbird. Then I changed the icon on the Thunderbird shortcut to an envelope and the name of the shortcut to "Mail" so she could find it. The thing is, I've showed her the web interface for gmail, and she actually likes it better than Thunderbird, but opening a browser, typing gmail.com and logging in are too much for her to handle. With this, I can give her that same shortcut on her desktop with the Envelope and the word "Mail" and it'll take her straight to the Gmail web interface, without an address bar, or forward/back/stop buttons to add confusion.

The users here are set up with IRC chatrooms for their teams. We tried moving them to Campfire for a simpler interface and better opportunities for offsite access, but they liked mIRC better. They said it was easier to use than Campfire. When I asked them how Campfire's interface could possibly be more difficult to use than mIRC, they said it wasn't the interface, it was the fact that they had to leave a web browser or tab open all the time, and then they couldn't find it on the taskbar when they wanted to check out the chat. With Prism, I could give them a shortcut on the desktop that would open a Prism window to the chatroom, where the window title would be the name of the chatroom and the icon would be unique. Plus, it wouldn't get lumped in with all the other browser windows when the taskbar filled up.

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128865)

Why not just make the launcher say: "firefox gmail.com" and set it to remember the user. I don't know when it expires, but then it's only a matter of clicking the Sign in button.

Re:Wow, people are sick (1)

pkey (651794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129099)

I could do that, but then there's still the Firefox chrome there to confuse her. This way, there's no buttons, no address bar, no status bar, nothing but the app she wants to use.

Another active desktop? (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127465)

I think it was almost ten years ago when Microsoft came out with active desktop and Netscape countered with something which was really a browser window taking up the whole screen and called a desktop.

I never saw either being used. Is this the same thing?

Re:Another active desktop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21127507)

I haven't read the article or tried this but I feel qualified to answer. It sounds more like a Citrix-type setup where a webpage/applet is enclosed in a "windows-like" frame. Basically, mini browser windows.

Re:Another active desktop? (5, Insightful)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127913)

I think it was almost ten years ago when Microsoft came out with active desktop and Netscape countered with something which was really a browser window taking up the whole screen and called a desktop.

I never saw either being used. Is this the same thing?
Well, I might be wrong, but this is how I see it.

Flash, Silverlight etc. are attempts to let you write cross-platform apps that are available through the web. This is becoming the hottest area these days. But you need special tools for cross-platform development; the reason these tools are needed, is that web browsers are not exactly compatible with each other. You can't write an AJAX app and have it run perfectly in IE, FF, Opera, Safari, etc. It is tricky.

Now, Mozilla Firefox currently runs the same way on all the major operating systems. So it could be a cross-platform app environment as well, if you think about it: Develop once for Firefox, and all people need to run your software is to use Firefox (which is a free download). But that is the problem - some people prefer IE, Opera, etc. You can't force them to switch web browser.

Therefore, the solution for Mozilla is to separate web apps from the browser. That is, the platform will be Firefox, but people won't even notice it; Firefox will be like Flash. Imagine running IE and clicking on a web app, which then opens in a new window. It could be Flash, AJAX, or Firefox; you wouldn't know.

Active desktop might have been adopted if there was much of a use for it, back then. There wasn't. But meanwhile things have changed, and nowadays web apps are quite useful and it now does makes sense to integrate them into your desktop - so long as you do so in a cross-platform manner. Mozilla already has such a platform - Firefox - which runs on all platforms in the same manner. All they need to do is a little packaging.

Re:Another active desktop? (1)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128987)

this isn't how it works. there's no extra coding on the server side. its all client-side. any web application that can run in a web browser can run under Prism.

Re:Another active desktop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21129219)

Yeah but what's worse?

Closed standard language designed especially for vector graphics and interaction (Flash)

or

Open standard HTML+CSS+Javascript+DOM, which are about 50000 pages and, in fact, not exactly followed by Mozilla. On even a 2GHz you can hear the fan working when Mozilla tries to render to frontpage of slashdot. Many web designers create pages with trial and error so that it works on Mozilla. KHTML, safari and opera are still not there yet. The standard is how mozilla (a 500K line pice of crap) renders pages.

+1000 for flash even if its closed.

Re:Another active desktop? (1)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128091)

The sibling post by the Anonymous Coward is more on the mark. Its nothing like Active Desktop. Basically, when you run the program, you input an Address, a name, and a select a shortcut location (start menu, quick launch, or desktop). You run that new shortcut and it executes the web-app in its own window without all the browser features. Its basically like removing all the toolbars and menu bars and just having the web-page area take up all available area. For people who run web applications and leave them running, thereby making the available browser functions useless (ie, if you keep gmail open, you probably don't use the menu bars that often or the toolbar either since all the controls are inside the page), this is kind of useful. I was quite surprised as to how much more room I got once the "browser" was removed.

Re:Another active desktop? (1)

Khuffie (818093) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128847)

In Opera, I can simply drag a tab in my main window to the desktop, and voila, a fullscreen app with minimal browser control. In fact, I can right click on the address bar and hide it. Simple, quick, and I don't need to have a separate 'app' for gmail.

Re:Another active desktop? (1)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129039)

yes, but i'm fairly certain that this doesn't require the extra resources required by the browser. i may be wrong, but i'm fairly certain it runs with a lot less resources because its not that its hiding the web browswer... it just doesn't have the web browser there. so it has faster startup, less resources, etc.

Re:Another active desktop? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128495)

I have used Active Desktop a lot for small intranet applications like issue tracking, simple messages, "what's on the menu at the company cafeteria", and so on. People at that company (an advertising agency) actually loved that. Mac users at the time couldn't use it (under MacOS 9), but they would never envy a bunch of Windows 98 and 2000 users.

I kind of miss its functionality under Gnome. I wish I could do it that easily.

But I can live without the crashes.

This is a great idea (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21127467)

for me to poop on!

FUCK TEH INTERNET it is for losers with berets.

Yeahhhhh........ (1, Redundant)

entmike (469980) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127529)

Because Active Desktop caught on so well.......

Re:Yeahhhhh........ (1)

Enoxice (993945) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127997)

I know you're being sarcastic, but I seem to recall seeing quite a few instances of malware using ActiveDesktop to inform the user (in an official-looking manner) that they "have spyware and need to buy [sketchy program x] for only $59.99 to scan for an remove all problems" (that the authors want to remove...meaning competing malware).

And you're still going to stand there and try to tell me Active Desktop never caught on. And let's not forget about the 45 minutes we all hate to admit that we spent with that radar and/or map as our desktop.

Yup. I'd say that Active Desktop is going along pretty well...

Either way, this isn't what prism is, if I understand it correctly. Prism puts the webapp into it's own window; presumably so users can more easily use their feeble minds to grasp the concept that they are using a 'program' and not a webpage.

Re:Yeahhhhh........ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128301)

What are you talking about? This isn't anything like Active Desktop. The modern equivalent of Active Desktop is the desktop widget feature promoted by Apple, Opera, KDE, etc.

Buzz-word compliance (3, Funny)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127615)

rich internet technologies like HTML

But does it support DNS?..

Look, ma, no tabs (3, Funny)

Ddalex (647089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127619)

Let me say goodbye to positive karma: Welcome back, dear Internet Explorer 3 days...

Mozilla head #1> Umm, MS copies our tabs in their so-called browser !
Mozilla head #2> Ok, let's make a version without tabs... and while we're at it, let's remove that pesky Back button - and we'll have a fix for the memory leak too !!!

laugh all you like (2, Insightful)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127733)

This is useful for many users: it makes it much easier to migrate from desktop to web applications, and it is intrinsically easier for people to grasp "to get to your mail, click on the Mail icon" than "start the browser, go to your bookmarks, select...".

Also, if this is well executed, it provides a better level of isolation between web applications. Right now, it's pretty tricky trying to read mail for two or three GMail accounts (it would be less tricky if profiles weren't broken...), and if one web site locks up or slows down the browser, other web apps suffer as well. SSB can address those problems.

Re:laugh all you like (1)

proxy318 (944196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128281)

it is intrinsically easier for people to grasp "to get to your mail, click on the Mail icon"
Well, it's not like you can't create a shortcut to a URL on their desktop for those people.

And the point of this is.....? (3, Insightful)

Tim82 (806662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127741)

Am I missing something here?

How is this different to putting a URL shortcut on your desktop and having the browser window appear without an address bar?

Re:And the point of this is.....? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127809)

Personally, I'm hoping it means it runs the site in a seperate instance, so that firefox crashing doesn't take down everything I'm doing at once, like it currently does. My current alternative is to use Opera as well, but that's still only 2, and some of my sites don't do Opera all that well. (Or Konqueror, for that matter.)

Re:And the point of this is.....? (5, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127837)

The difference is conceptual. When people start "blogging" many slashdotters also missed it: "Just upload your html using ftp!" Just compare how simple it is to put together an HTML page with a form and how (relatively) difficult it is to do the same thing using even Visual Basic. My prediction is that this is the beginning to something really big.

Re:And the point of this is.....? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128557)

My prediction is that this is the beginning to something really big.

Web 3.0? Or are we up to 3.5? 4? If it involves AJAX, I'm all over it...

Re:And the point of this is.....? (2, Interesting)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128629)

I use to teach my students JavaScript and DOM, then let them build a, say, calculator.

They loved to develop client-side stuff and made some very impressive things in a couple weeks.

Then I would present them the wonderful world of forms and XMLHttpRequest stuff.

If you don't insist on using XML, it's even fun to do.

 

Re:And the point of this is.....? (1)

iandog (449451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128837)

Yah, but a lot of applications, like Anki [repose.cx] , or Gnucash [gnucash.org] , just do this with local html widgets. You don't need remote html to do that.

Re:And the point of this is.....? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127923)

Looks like the advantage is, you don't waste your scree space with useless forward/backward buttons, URL strings etc.

Re:And the point of this is.....? (1)

aug24 (38229) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127993)

I think they will report (on alt-tab for example) as "Google Mail" rather than "Google Mail - Firefox" and thus are a bit more 'applicationy'. But the interesting technologies will be the ones they add later, like local storage.

Justin.

Re:And the point of this is.....? (1)

JK_the_Slacker (1175625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128147)

I've noticed something in the past month or so... when I'm sitting at my desktop, I tend to get less work done. I'm posting on Slashdot, reading the latest in stupid or tech news, checking my myriad email accounts, etc.

When I ssh in to my desktop from somewhere else, though, I get a LOT more work done. Code gets written, documentation gets updated, and I'm not playing around on the interwebs.

Maybe I'm just mildly ADD or something, but any idea that puts more of a stumbling block to me goofing off (with the exception of blocking me from doing so when I'm SUPPOSED to goof off) sounds like a good thing to me.

Re:And the point of this is.....? (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129133)

Does the desktop you're sshing from not have a browser? I don't understand the difference, here.

Isolation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21127791)

What I would like to see is this implemented in such a way that the instances of these web-apps are separate from other XULRunner apps (e.g. if you also have Firefox running), and also isolated from one another.

The one advantage I can see here is keeping certain webpages open semi-permanently as applications (Gmail, Google Calendar, etc.). But it would be annoying if a crash of one app caused the others to close, too. Also, if this is designed properly it could be an advantage from a security standpoint. If your Gmail app is running separately from your web-browsing, there are fewer chances for cross-site scripting or other such exploits.

Good name (1, Funny)

idiotdevel (654397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127929)

Since I frequently refer to Windows as "prison", I think "Prism" is a good name for a Windows app.

trouble installing (1)

sherpajosh (1180007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127945)

each time i try to install the program i get an error saying each file is corrupt. i tried to hitting ignore and letting it install anyway but when i run prism nothing happens. tried to redownload the install but the samething happens each time. any ideas?

Re:trouble installing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128223)

Try installing it in windows, not that macintosh crap you've been using the past 2 years.

iPod like comments (4, Insightful)

GauteL (29207) | more than 6 years ago | (#21127977)

Most comments here now remind me of the whole "no wifi, less space than a nomad, lame"-comment about the iPod when it came out. These comments are completely missing the point.

The current problem is that our desktop is built up around the idea of local applications and that is all the current desktops are designed to handle. But nowadays people are using less and less local applications and more and more web applications (whether you like it or not), and all of these run in a separate layer through the web browser. At some point, if we aren't already there, many people will not use a single local application on their computer apart from their web browser.

At that point, the whole distinction between the web browser and the operating system becomes completely irrelevant and we approach stage where windows is just a collection of device drivers (quote Netscape, mid nineties?).

Currently, the operating system does a lot of great stuff for us with regards to the local applications, and it really needs to start doing the same with regards to web applications and the first step is to make web applications first class citizens on the desktop.

Finally, complain all you want about the privacy and security issues with web applications. Well founded as they may be, they will not change the fact that people are flocking to web applications.

Active Desktop was a bit lame and MS seemed to have no real concept of where they were going with it.It was also well before the age of "web applications" as opposed to web sites. Just because there may be similarities with that old concept doesn't make this stupid.

Re:iPod like comments (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128691)

"At that point, the whole distinction between the web browser and the operating system becomes completely irrelevant and we approach stage where windows is just a collection of device drivers (quote Netscape, mid nineties?)."

Note to self: Next time, shoot the giant dead before trying to wake it up.

Re:iPod like comments (3, Insightful)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129121)

People are flocking to web applications? Where are you getting this? Can I get a source? Or are you just making this up? Or did you "get a feeling" for it from the number of friends you have using gmail? Because, my experiences tell me, beyond email and flash games, people still want their software to be desktop-based and not web-based.

Another point; before we do anything you said we "need" to do, we need to improve bandwidth to the world if we want web apps to work well. Honestly, I wouldn't know why you'd want to do that, seeing as they do the same thing as a non-web app but runs slower. Sure, they're more portable, but so is Java, and we all know how well Java caught on with the public.

Re:iPod like comments (2, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21129455)

But nowadays people are using less and less local applications and more and more web applications ...
I don't think this is supported by fact. Maybe Webie Speak PR, but not reality.

firefox != gecko (1)

Hayden Panettiere (1174137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128095)

Prism is built on Firefox

Prism is built on Gecko. Please correct this article, it doesn't give enough credit to Gecko and unfairly gives too much credit to the Firefox team, who sometimes make bad decisions with respect to their product.

Seamonkey is way better anyway.

Started (1)

kurtis25 (909650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128175)

I started using WebRunner a few weeks ago and like it. I can just leave it to run minimized and not accidentally close it when I close FireFox or accidentally surf off the tab. This seems practical in several situations, set it up to wait online for World Series tickets, keep a calendar open. Most practical would be for use as a corporate tool, I could run my corporate web based software. Since most of the uses involve typing I miss automatic spell check from FF.

I shall call them "Applications"! (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128213)

That doesn't defeat the purpose of web applications AT ALL!

Wait -- this is brilliant. An application that has access to the system resources instead of simply running as a webpage? Why, we could just write our applications as lean, platform-independent C-libraries-- and and -- I GOT IT -- we could create brilliant interfaces by simply hammering in layers of C# on .NET and Mono, so it would be like... ... it would be like the application would be USING system resources, but not written specifically FOR that system. We'll call them.... ".NET APPLICATIONS". They could be even faster than AJAX! And you wouldn't even need to be on the internet to use them! Not to mention you could take advantage of existing GTK or WinForms calls in order to get the smoothest fastest interface.

Join me, Slashdot- let us develop "applications"!

But wait- what if they need to be 100% multiplatform. What if I am not smart enough to abstract my code into a library/interface model... perhaps Prizm is for me!

From the user angle, now I can run Gmail on my desktop, because running Apple Mail or Windows Mail and just using the pop server is not Web 2.0 enough for me. I need to have ultra-slow, buggy, server-locked AJAX technology to make my desktop applications seem like desktop applications even though they are not desktop applications but they're acting like them thanks to Mozilla!

Server >> Application >> Web-Interface >> Prizm > Application Web/Server

Now everything will run as slowly and inefficiently as firefox! :) :) :)

Re:I shall call them "Applications"! (1)

damaki (997243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128839)

Well they reinvented java.
Just joking. I've already built java guis faster and more responsive than native ones.

Might be useful in a corporate environment (2, Insightful)

thalassinos (1006625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128283)

I work in a (biggish) bank and this would fit well with our current portfolio of applications.

For our web based applications, our users are used to working with multiple browser windows opened simultaneously, each for a different part of our system (e.g. separate browser window for our credit cards system, different browser windows for our treasury system, different browser windows for our customer information system etc).

We actually forbid the use of the "back" button, and where possible we disable it (it messes up our data integrity). We also hide the address bar.

Because we also have applications developed as native windows GUI applications, Prism would probably make our web applications blend in with our GUI applications, improving the look and feel of our system.

Definitely something to check out in the future; although I doubt if it will be worth the hassle of deploying it.

How about Java web start? (1)

balor123 (526504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128353)

This might be useful in that it frees the developer from having to decide whether build a web app or a desktop app. However, that benefit doesn't come free. Part of the advantage of web applications is that the software is always up to date. That advantage becomes harder to accommodate if the data is stored locally since the software provider must now deal with a problem it didn't have to before: backwards compatibility. The 3d support would allow some applications to become better but remember that Ajax applications are slow - very slow - and adding native support also means reduced ubiquity. Would this program allow for offline support? Google Gears in theory addresses this problem but hasn't been ported to all applications and would need to be used in combination. In short, I see this application as expanding opportunities for web applications but is far from displacing desktop applications. I view this application as closer to Java applets rather than active desktop. Java applets desktop applications to the web while Mozilla's approach brings web applications to the desktop. Java applets are slower to load in a web browser than Ajax pages while Java applications are faster to run on the desktop than Ajax applications. If our goal is to provide occasional desktop access to applications predominantly accessed from a web browser then this is a good approach. But if the goal is to make desktop applications with the benefits of web applications then as developers we're better off writing our applications in Java.,

Re:How about Java web start? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128775)

Mozilla at least, also lets you write applications in XUL... If everyone was going to be using Prism, this would be more than feasible.
As a (rather small) example, try:
http://www.google.com/mozilla/google.xul [google.com]

Window Racks (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128571)

I like the idea of setting a browser's window as a separate app for a given site, so that site's app can be distinguished more easily from the other (many) browsers open at a time, many of those others just "casual", while some are persistent through the day.

But a separate app seems like a lot of overhead for a narrow solution. When I have a dozen Firefox windows open now, even though only half are persistent through the day, they all share the common resources. A separate app for each of the half-dozen persistent sites/apps means a lot of redundant app resources, in an already fat app (Firefox). I like the idea of securing each app from the other by separating processes, but that could be achieved with just proper programming the single app instance.

What is a better combo of all these features is just adding "window racks" to Firefox (and properly programming cross-site separation). I want to rack up several windows into a virtual rack that opens and closes all the windows together. So I can open a multiwindow session, with different apps in them, positioning/sizing the windows in the right arrangement for those apps in that session. I want to assign a "bookmark" (or app launcher) to that rack, assign a name to the rack that's displayed on each window, and probably an icon, too. And a rule that opens any clicked link in a new browser rack. That way the GUI is "partitioned" into my sessions for easily keeping them organized, both onscreen and in my mind when starting "apps".

Really this is a feature of the window manager (like X) that should be used by all apps. Because what I really want is a window rack of multiple apps I use all at once. I want to click a button and get my email, browser and spreadsheet apps launched at once, positioned properly on the screen. I could write a wrapper script right now to do that, and maybe even a GUI tool to populate "rack" scripts, but I want extra GUI support that makes all the windows in the rack clearly associated, maybe by a colored window border, common icon, or even (togglable) connecting lines. And I want the rack to enforce IPC permissions, so I don't even have to copy/drag/paste through my whole desktop, but rather just pop fields and objects among targets in the rack. IPC authorization among only "racked" (and otherwise explicitly associated) apps would make the whole OS more secure.

Window racks give me what I want. I think Prism is a long step down the wrong road.

Google killing Thunderbird? (4, Interesting)

David Jao (2759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128663)

I saw this point raised on LWN recently, and it seems relevant to bring it up here. Any observer who connects the dots will realize that Mozilla is killing off their Thunderbird email client, intentionally, and is doing so at the behest of Google.

Let's look at the facts. Mozilla is a highly profitable [slashdot.org] organization. You would think that Mozilla could afford to spend at least a little money on hiring Thunderbird developers. Yet in reality Mozilla has done the opposite: they have completely abandoned Thunderbird [slashdot.org] .

Why? Because of money.

The vast majority of Mozilla's income comes from Google. One of Google's main products is Gmail. Thunderbird competes with Gmail. So it makes sense that Google wants Thunderbird dead. Of course, they're not going to announce their intentions in a press release, but in reality that's exactly what's going on. Announcements like this one only make their plan more obvious than before.

This kind of anti-competitive behavior is exactly why most Slashdot readers hate Microsoft. Why is Google getting a free pass here?

Re:Google killing Thunderbird? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128757)

As I said in a previous thread, Google has essentially "bought" Mozilla.

My opinion is that we are fast approaching a Netscape Situation, where due to politics brought on by the Google Takeover of Mozilla, it will die a horrible Netscape death. And also like Netscape, most Mozilla "products" are now fast becomming bloatware.

Now is the time to fork, people.

Awesome project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21128781)

I am all for this project and with the new features in FireFox 3 to help make this a better product for the desktop I am looking forward to using this in future products.

The main item I am looking into is that will each new instance be shielded from the other instances where they will not share cookies and other information?

Doesn't work so well on the typical website. (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21128793)

I just tried it. (On gaiaonline.com, if you must know.) Horrid. Why?

Websites are designed to be used in a browser. Removing all the controls and stuff makes them hard to navigate, and the lack of tabs is quite a pain as well. I've seen that it has settings to add the navigation/etc back in, but then... Isn't it back to just being a browser? The biggest problem with this is that sites aren't designed for it.

In fact, I just tried it in GMail (on our domain) as well, and other than the fact that it's in a seperate process from firefox and they shouldn't crash each other, it's crap. If you click any of the links at the top, they open in browser. (I assume this will still be the case if you can 'installed' the 'app' for those as well.) None of the firefox extensions are available. Speed (of course) isn't improved.

And the worst part? Making it happen for a new site means creating a file, zipping it, and launching it separately. I could write a script that will quickly do that for me from a URL, but I shouldn't have to.

Unless I'm extensively working with a site that tends to crash the browser, I doubt I'll get much use out of this.

Blehh, who needs this whole internet thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21129593)

To all you "This is stupid because I can do something similar and didn't get the credit for inventing anything"-sayers.
The point of this is not "to make a browser without tabs" but to isolate a webapp, making it resemble a "conventional" app more.

Why not keep webapps in the browser? I don't know, why aren't we making local apps run in the browser, I mean, even though word doesn't use all web content, I'm sure you could get it to render in a IE or firefox tab. Then we could have all apps local or webbased, or as most are now: a mixture (Even word gets content off the internet when you run it "localy" with internet access).
The point is simply that browsers are meant to be ...... browsers, not appbrowsers, but webpage browsers. As webapps resemple local apps more and more, it makes sence to make them behave like normal apps.

Ofcause this has been possible for a long time, but what this tries to do is simple follow the trends, and bring webapps to the local app space in a convinient and simple way.

It'll be funny if the wave of making webbased clones of local apps, ends up being swallowed by the wave of bringing webapps into the local app space.
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