October 26, 2007

Mozilla's Prism - Web Apps as desktop apps

This is where the web is headed. I just found and downloaded WebRunner yesterday, and since I’m on Mac, I’ll have to wait for Prism. I’ve used AIR, but only for one application, (finetune), and it’s a little buggy.

Some may say this is Firefox without the controls, or that it’s just a windowless-browser. That’s fine. I think the difference of having icons on your desktop for web applications won’t mean much to techies, (of which I am one), but it will mean a lot to non-techs. People who think that the Internet is that big blue “e” on their desktop will now be able to think that email is that red envelope (Gmail). Could they have dragged the URL to their desktop and put in a custom icon? Sure. Have they? No. Will they ever? Probably not. This makes it easier.

This isn’t replacing the web. It’s integrating it more with the “normal” desktop experience users are used to.

Think about it. People can have .doc .odt .rtf .xls .cvs .ppt .ods .odp all associated with Google Docs & Spreadsheets. And if they want to open a new one, they just click on the icon for Google Docs. (Or, if they’d rather, Zoho Office, or gOffice, or whatever.)

It would make web applications in the eyes of simple end users to be the functional equivalents of their proprietary retail-box on-my-hard-drive brothers. Not to say that they will have the same power tools that the offline versions have - that’s up to the programmers of the web apps. But that they will “look and feel” like a desktop application.

What’s interesting is that web apps make the browser function more like the operating system, which, in a way, gives a lot more power to Mozilla. By “hiding” the browser, Mozilla is returning the desktop to the OS. No more “Firefox - Gmail” in the taskbar or top of the window - but “Gmail” only in both places.

From a technical aspect, there might not be much wizbang to it, I’m not saying it’s easy to build - just that geeks might not appreciate it. But from a psychological standpoint, this could mean a lot to users.

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