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Impact - A Blog by INM

Clearing the Air about Offline Applications

October 31, 2007 by Laurent Brigaut

Last week, Mozilla announced a project called Prism, a newly packaged version of its Webrunner technology from a couple of years ago. Prism lets users split web applications out of their browser and run them directly on their desktop.

What’s interesting about this announcement is how many industry blogs and media covered it as a solution for offline apps, comparing it to other recently announced solutions like AIR and Silverlight. With all this clouding of messaging, I wanted to take a moment to clarify a few points about offline applications.

Prism does not currently support offline, rather it’s a vehicle to access an existing website or web application from the desktop while a user is online. Hopefully Mozilla will choose to release an API for it in the future, making it more of a powerful option. It could theoretically be paired with a technology like Google Gears to create the impression of an offline app.

On a similar note, many posts recently have also lumped Silverlight in the offline apps category, comparing it to AIR. This too is a misconception. Silverlight is more akin to Flash Player than to anything else. Today, with version 1.0 of Silverlight, it cannot run offline. Yes, you can use Javascript in a browser to mimic some offline functions, but it is still isolated from the operating system. Now, Microsoft does note that support for offline functionality will come with version 1.1, but a release date for this has not yet been set.

I hope this helps to clarify a few of the recent misconceptions out there.