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Prism, Air, or Web Apps on the Desktop

After playing around with Adobe's AIR during the last few weeks - and having installed a couple of neat applications running on AIR: Snitter, Tweetr, Analytics Reporting Suite - I today came upon an interesting project by the clever people at the Mozilla Labs. It had been known as Webrunner, but they call it Prism now. In short, Prism provides a complete XUL based GUI that uses Gecko for running pseuo-standalone web applications. Imagine a single Firefox window minus all controls and menus that display only one web site per window. Sounds like a step back into long forgotten times of tab-less browsers? It somehow feels like it - and then again, it doesn't.

Prism allows you to save shortcuts to web sites (, for example) to a shortcut on your desktop. You can then open a Google Mail browser window that in a way looks like a single application. It's not, of course, but the developers want to make it possible to create those application links from within Firefox. The more I think about Prism, the more I classify it as an alternative way to store your bookmarks, nothing more. Yet, it feels different and could eventually bring forth a handling similar to AIR applications. You probably figured out that I'm still undecided on how to judge Prism. I like what can be achieved by AIR, but what extra value does Prism give us?

In other news, version 0.7 of both Sunbird and Lightning was released yesterday, and my first impression is that it's quite stable. I installed the Provider for Google Calendar 0.3 and now am happily reading from and writing to GCal. As with Google Mail, I like their web interface, but a desktop app has its advantages. Not that I mention it: Everybody's talking about moving from desktop to the web. But AIR, Prism, and a couple of other architectures bring the web to the desktop. Now how does that fit in?