Mozilla launches Prism 1.0 beta

Mozilla's Prism project has been around for quite a while now, and many companies have been using and testing it throughtout the life of its development thus far; it may have taken a rather long time, but Mozilla have finally pushed Prism into its 1.0 beta stages, as they have reported on their blog.

Firstly, what is Prism? If you already know and don't care for the details, follow the link at the bottom of the article to download the latest version. Prism is a desktop application developed by Mozilla, the very same company that is famous for the Firefox web browser, that allows you to take certain websites and turn them into desktop applications themselves (called single-site browsers or site-specific browsers; SSB for short), for Windows, Mac or Linux.

According to Mozilla, here are some of the main features:

* 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.

So, why bother with this? What's the point in turning webpages into separate applications when your trusty browser handles it just fine? Well, there's a couple reasons. According to Mozilla, Prism is designed to make running web applications much better; many websites like Facebook and Gmail are web applications that are run through the browser (which was first designed for reading documents), and that is not an ideal environment to run other forms of content. Mozilla also reasons that it can be a hassle having to scrounge through masses of tabs and windows just to find your email provider, or similar. If a web application is unstable or poorly written, it can affect the entire browser, potentially losing anything you are currently working on. If you run that same site through Prism, it can't affect anything else you might have going on, so you'll be worry free. Prism is based on the same browser engine as Firefox, so that ensures compatibility with most, if not all, current websites on the internet.

If you're interested in Prism and curious to try it out, please head over to the official Prism website and download the latest version. Additionally, be sure to report back here on how it goes!

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Windows 7 RC to receive test updates on May 12th

Next Story

ATI Radeon HD 4890 vs. Nvidia GeForce GTX 275

59 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

This is possibly the best thing i have downloaded in ages, facebook is so much better when run through this. i feel this is the beginning of something gooooooddddd!!!!

It needs a feature that Safari has, where you can just grab a section of a webpage, and it turns it into a dashboard widget. So if you just want the scoreboard from ESPN, you can just grab that 300x200 box on the page and it becomes a widget. Or if you just want to grab the Pandora player only, you can do that also. The problem with dashboard widget is you can't have it visible at all times. There's a hack for it but it resets to default after reboot.

minkcar said,
IE in kiosk mode anyone? This sounds pointless.

I must have missed the options where kiosk mode creates a custom icon, can be associated with filetypes and can be minimized to the tray with a custom right click menu.

According to Mozilla, Prism is designed to make running web applications much better; many websites like Facebook and Gmail are web applications that are run through the browser (which was first designed for reading documents), and that is not an ideal environment to run other forms of content.

Since a Prism-based application is just a regular HTML/JS application, how would just removing the browser chrome run it any better? In fact, after trying out Chrome application shortcuts, it seems like using hyperlink based navigation without the back/forward button is actually counter-intuitive.

And how are these functionally different from .hta HTML Applications except that these still enforce the browser security model?

Mozilla also reasons that it can be a hassle having to scrounge through masses of tabs and windows just to find your email provider, or similar

How is it that moving the list from the top of the screen (tab bar) to the bottom (taskbar) help in this regard in a way that opening the site in a new browser window won't do?

soumyasch said,
How is it that moving the list from the top of the screen (tab bar) to the bottom (taskbar) help in this regard in a way that opening the site in a new browser window won't do?

Icons and task grouping. If I open a new Firefox window for Gmail It's just going to group itself with the old firefox icon. I like the fact that my Gmail window is treated like it's own app and inherits all the window management features (ie. distinct taskbar icon, shows up in alt-tab, etc.) that any other app would have.

Mozilla also reasons that it can be a hassle having to scrounge through masses of tabs and windows just to find your email provider, or similar...

Oh yes. The times I curse at the burden of having to open or look through a few, sorry, 'masses of' tabs. It's almost as labour intensive as having to breathe in and out for myself.

Reading the comments above, it seems I'm not alone is not sharing the dream on this one...

SniperX said,
Oh yes. The times I curse at the burden of having to open or look through a few, sorry, 'masses of' tabs. It's almost as labour intensive as having to breathe in and out for myself.

Not everyone uses a browser the same way you do. Especially not people who spend most of their time working online.

But hey, dismiss it because it's not perfect for you. Great.

Kirkburn said,
Not everyone uses a browser the same way you do. Especially not people who spend most of their time working online.

But hey, dismiss it because it's not perfect for you. Great.

Well that told me didn't it!? Boy do I feel stupid now. Let's see, who spends most of their time working online. Now let me think... Oh yes, I do! All day long in fact!

But hey, dismiss it because you didn't realise it. Great. :)

Seriously, if closing tabs is an overwhelming burden to you that needs this solution, you really don't have the time (let alone the stamina) to be typing nonsense to me.

SniperX said,
Oh yes. The times I curse at the burden of having to open or look through a few, sorry, 'masses of' tabs. It's almost as labour intensive as having to breathe in and out for myself.

Reading the comments above, it seems I'm not alone is not sharing the dream on this one...

It's not that sorting through tabs is a burden. It's just that we want things logically layed out. The uses of web browsers have stretched to the point where the tab bar is starting to function as a secondary taskbar. I don't want my Email app (gmail), music player (Grooveshark) and Document Editor (Google Docs) to be sitting in my browsers tab-bar. I want them in the superbar with their own icons in their own group just like I do with any other app.

SniperX said,
Seriously, if closing tabs is an overwhelming burden to you that needs this solution, you really don't have the time (let alone the stamina) to be typing nonsense to me.

Again, I don't care if it's not perfect for you. You are not most people.

I know several people who have tens to hundreds of tabs open at a time, because of how they work.

Kirkburn said,
Again, I don't care if it's not perfect for you. You are not most people.

I know several people who have tens to hundreds of tabs open at a time, because of how they work.

Really. Hundreds of tabs. As in, two hundred or more. I have trouble even being sarcastic at the thought. I seriously cannot fathom any profession that demands such an amount of multitasking. Enlighten me.

I would actually use this app if not for anything but my webmail and a couple other frequently used sites. If only you could have the ability to use the mozilla addons with prism. For instance, one i cant live without and thats Adblock Plus, I can't stand advertisements cluttering up my screen. So i might as well just create a shortcut on my desktop and have it go through Firefox.

I just tried it as well, I really don't see this catching on for the average end user, I can see valid uses for business but otherwise its usefulness to me no matter what an actual prism based website can add to it is sorta moot.

I like very much the full power of the browsers i use and third party extensions i use heavily that this cuts out of the picture entirely, we already have so many excellent browsers and extensions, this is just one more thing web developers have to turn their attention to? it is not necessary imho

im finding it useful. it does crash here and there though, im just using it for facebook and one of my fav forums though

After reading what everyone said, I too realized this is pretty pointless. I can put a shortcut to a website on my desktop any day! That's basically what this program does. Wow, I'm glad I never became a Firefox user, cuz I would be embarresed to have that program associated with my name!

andrewbares said,
After reading what everyone said, I too realized this is pretty pointless. I can put a shortcut to a website on my desktop any day! That's basically what this program does. Wow, I'm glad I never became a Firefox user, cuz I would be embarresed to have that program associated with my name!

So what you're actually saying is you didn't read it then?

andrewbares said,
.......I would be embarresed to have that program associated with my name!

Really ?

I won't ask you your age but ....

are you sure you didn't saw how childish that comment was. ?

For a beta app, you'd expect it to at least run, even if it doesn't work right.
So far, I find Mozilla Prism simply doesn't work, full stop. All I get is this . . .

I'd have expected something a lot more stable than this from Mozilla.

Yeah, I have been using IE8 a lot lately and one of the things I like is the fact that when a tab does crash it recovers nicely and even continues from where it crashed with no data lost. I don't see the point of Prism if IE8 and Chrome is doing the exact same thing by sandboxing each tab process. FF is starting to play catch-up. Not good.

bmaher said,
Has it really taken them this long to develop what is basically a juiced-up wrapper :S.

That's what I was thinking

I believe what's difficult is separating out the different tabs into different processes (since these little desktop apps are pretty much just new tabs). We can probably look at prism as a precursor to Firefox becoming multiple process based.

UHYVE said,
I believe what's difficult is separating out the different tabs into different processes (since these little desktop apps are pretty much just new tabs).

It can't be that hard. Chrome already does that.

And the FIRST PARAGRAPH of any article should make it clear what the product being discussed is. We shouldn't have to click to the article to understand what the article is going to be about...ahem.

Doesn't Chrome already do this? Firefox seem to be more and more talk about thing they're going to do than actually doing them these days. I know the beta has been released but they've been talking about it for, what seems like, an age and others have caught up or overtaken them. Same goes for their browser talking about how great v4 will be when they can't get v3.5 out.

m.keeley said,
Doesn't Chrome already do this? Firefox seem to be more and more talk about thing they're going to do than actually doing them these days. I know the beta has been released but they've been talking about it for, what seems like, an age and others have caught up or overtaken them. Same goes for their browser talking about how great v4 will be when they can't get v3.5 out.

It's always good to plan ahead! It's also always good to make sure a browser has no major bugs before it is released, that's why they haven't released version 3.5 yet.

It's not that they can't it's that they're making sure it's stable enough to be released as a final product first...

m.keeley said,
Doesn't Chrome already do this? Firefox seem to be more and more talk about thing they're going to do than actually doing them these days.

So, er, are you suggesting this launch didn't exist, or are you just griping?

Prism's been around for a while, anyway.

m.keeley said,
Doesn't Chrome already do this? Firefox seem to be more and more talk about thing they're going to do than actually doing them these days. I know the beta has been released but they've been talking about it for, what seems like, an age and others have caught up or overtaken them. Same goes for their browser talking about how great v4 will be when they can't get v3.5 out.

I've been using Prism since longer than Chrome has been out.

Hmm.. I'm still waiting for a simple way to pack those Prism applications into a single file or something. Would be interesting to deploy at school etc...

E.Fahd said,
I think you're looking for a browser :D

Well yes but one that I can set in advance to go to a special URL when opened and hide the URL bar like Prism does..

Doesn't sound like something you couldn't already do in a browser if you wanted to configure it. The default web page would be simple and I'm sure you just need the right setting to hide the address bar.

Im guessing its not going to be too impressive until developers start using the API.
Would i be right in thinking its like Active Desktop for firefox... but implemented better.

Nauge said,
Im guessing its not going to be too impressive until developers start using the API.
Would i be right in thinking its like Active Desktop for firefox... but implemented better.

It actually just runs a site in a seperate window with a seperate process and a lot of settings you can change for that window. That's all.

"If you run that same site through Prism, it can't affect anything else you might have going on, so you'll be worry free"

Same as opening a site in IE, and then opening another site in a seperate instance of IE then?

I'm a firm fan of FF, and have been for years but I see this as a step backwards. I'm going to end up with a Prism shortcut to Yahoo!, another to Neowin etc... Why not work on the engine, to ensure faulty pages only blow out the tab they're loaded in rather than the whole instance of FF?

spikey_richie said,
"If you run that same site through Prism, it can't affect anything else you might have going on, so you'll be worry free"

Same as opening a site in IE, and then opening another site in a seperate instance of IE then?

I'm a firm fan of FF, and have been for years but I see this as a step backwards. I'm going to end up with a Prism shortcut to Yahoo!, another to Neowin etc... Why not work on the engine, to ensure faulty pages only blow out the tab they're loaded in rather than the whole instance of FF?


To be honest, I don't know either I can't see myself using Prism. I'll give it a shot though.

spikey_richie said,
I'm going to end up with a Prism shortcut to Yahoo!, another to Neowin etc...

Where on earth did you get that idea?

spikey_richie said,
Why not work on the engine, to ensure faulty pages only blow out the tab they're loaded in rather than the whole instance of FF?

You think companies shouldn't have R&D departments?

A way you might use Prism: webmail. I'd rather simply run Gmail on it's own, than have it as one of my many Firefox tabs/windows.

Kirkburn said,
Where on earth did you get that idea?


You think companies shouldn't have R&D departments?

A way you might use Prism: webmail. I'd rather simply run Gmail on it's own, than have it as one of my many Firefox tabs/windows.


I'm pretty sure you can create a shortcut on your desktop/taskbar/startmenu that will launch a URL in a new browser window. I think this is why people are confused about the usefulness. It seems far more simple to use -??? commands in a shortcut to load the new window without bars. If creating custom shortcuts is too much of a hassle, for a couple decades now we've had this amazing thing called a batch file...

We also have the freedom to access Gmail from any offline email client of our choice, giving us a wide variety of interfaces beyond the web's blandness.

Joshie said,
We also have the freedom to access Gmail from any offline email client of our choice, giving us a wide variety of interfaces beyond the web's blandness.

They might be better off doing more work on Thunderbird rather than Prism? How about giving Thunderbird better integration with all the email services out there?

Remember that, back in the good ol' days? Back when people used to use a program dedicated solely to email? These kids today and their webmails and spacebooks...

Joshie said,
I'm pretty sure you can create a shortcut on your desktop/taskbar/startmenu that will launch a URL in a new browser window. I think this is why people are confused about the usefulness. It seems far more simple to use -??? commands in a shortcut to load the new window without bars. If creating custom shortcuts is too much of a hassle, for a couple decades now we've had this amazing thing called a batch file...

We also have the freedom to access Gmail from any offline email client of our choice, giving us a wide variety of interfaces beyond the web's blandness.


I'm sure you an create shortcuts. However, nobody is suggesting you have to, apart from spiky richie.

Web Gmail isn't exactly bland. It has themes, for example.

Joshie said,
I'm pretty sure you can create a shortcut on your desktop/taskbar/startmenu that will launch a URL in a new browser window. I think this is why people are confused about the usefulness. It seems far more simple to use -??? commands in a shortcut to load the new window without bars. If creating custom shortcuts is too much of a hassle, for a couple decades now we've had this amazing thing called a batch file...

We also have the freedom to access Gmail from any offline email client of our choice, giving us a wide variety of interfaces beyond the web's blandness.

If you use Gmail features as they're introduced your offline client will always be missing certain functionality. For example, I'm not aware of any desktop client that can sync my task list.

Even after reading the description, I still don't get it. What's so special about Prism compared to say just running another instance of Firefox?

I just tried it and you can remove stuff like Navigation Bar, URL, Status Bar. I guess it can be useful for an enterprise for their intranet website.

I'm using Gmail with it. I prepared the "app" when in my Inbox view and now I have an icon in the taskbar and once clicked it takes me directly to my Inbox. Quite nice

-Tray icons with specialized menus
-Tray icons with notifications
-Associate action/filetype with Prism 'app'/shortcut
-Customized icon that wont be grouped with other FF instances

Ohh, nice to heat something about this project. It's been pretty silent lately. :)

I suppose this is an attempt to achieve a similar goal as the web sites transformed into web applications when saved from Google Chrome. Especially as Google Chrome also supports offline storage API's and Google Gears, AFAIK.

But always interesting with competition, and as a developer myself, these new initiatives are kind of neat. :)

Anyone want to guess if Firefox 4 will have Prism built-in as a similar "Save site as application" feature?

Jugalator said,
Ohh, nice to heat something about this project. It's been pretty silent lately. :)

I suppose this is an attempt to achieve a similar goal as the web sites transformed into web applications when saved from Google Chrome. Especially as Google Chrome also supports offline storage API's and Google Gears, AFAIK.

But always interesting with competition, and as a developer myself, these new initiatives are kind of neat. :)

Anyone want to guess if Firefox 4 will have Prism built-in as a similar "Save site as application" feature? ;)


I remember hearing something about a future version of Firefox having Prism features. Can anybody else elaborate on that?

Sam Symons said,

I remember hearing something about a future version of Firefox having Prism features. Can anybody else elaborate on that?

it looks like they already integrated it into firefox as a extension that can be accessed from tools, you can download it from the prism site too