prism logoMozilla Prism has been getting mentioned a lot of coverage in the tech media lately due to a major update, but what does it do exactly, and is it something you need?

Mozilla, the same company that makes the popular Firefox Web browser, has updated their little known Prism desktop application, and while the tech media is buzzing about it, it doesn’t seem like something that will ever take off in a big way.  The basic premise is that you can convert any Web application such as YouTube, Gmail or Google Reader and turn it into a stand alone desktop application.  The theory behind this is that it will cause less instability in your browser, ease the locating of the app you want to use instead of looking through tabs and basically lets your browser go back to just being a browser as opposed to running applications.

The problem is that it fails at almost everything it sets out to do.

prism memory usageTo the left you can see an edited down version of my Windows Task Manager from when I was running Google Reader in Prism, and running four tabs in Firefox.  Reader is one of my used apps every day, so I figured I would see a significant drop in Firefox memory usage with it running separately.  While I did notice an uptick in response time as I browsed my RSS feeds, but I saw no drop in the amount of memory being used by my Browser.  So, instead of decreasing memory usage on my system, I actually increased it by over 100 thousand bytes.  Sure, Firefox may be a bit more stable, but at a negative to my overall system.

As for easing the finding of the program by removing it from my tabs, that also didn’t accomplish much.  As a Web professional, I never have less than six programs open on my task bar at any time.  Instead of poking through tabs, which you can move around to any order you want, I now have to poke through buttons on my status bar which could be in any order unless I open my programs in the same order every time I boot my system.

One of their big selling points comes from their informational page:

A single faulty app or web page can no longer take down everything you are working on.

Well, this is a problem solved by Google Chrome as each tab is treated as a separate process, so if one crashes, you only lose that tab, and not the whole browser.

To add insult to injury, for optimal use of Prism, they recommend you install an extension in Firefox for easier conversion of a web app to a desktop tool.  The problem with this concept is that each extension you have running in your browser adds to the memory usage and instability of your browser.

I also tried Gmail in Prism, and I lost some functionality of Labs features, so some items used by an app were not usable in this new tool.

In short, I am not entirely clear on what the benefits of Prism are.  For each “problem” it aims to solve, it seems to create another.  I, for one, will be deleting it from my system not that I’ve tried it.  I just can’t see where I am gaining anything from it.  Perhaps future releases will address some of these issues, but for now I don’t recommend it for pretty much anyone, be it a novice or power user.  If you would still like to learn more, check out their informational video below.

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2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. techpops
    May 11th, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    With 4GB being the new standard. I don't think its really a big deal anymore that an app uses more memory. I can't remember the last time I ran out of memory with 2GB and now I have 4GB it's even less likely.

    I love Prism and don't really care if it becomes some amazing success or not. I find it useful and I use it. The big plus for me with it is it gives you a bigger area to deal with one site. This helps a lot with tiling and the use of multiple monitors. Tabs are great for space saving, but when you have the the space to play with, it makes sense to use it.

  2. Billie Nassef
    September 18th, 2016 at 12:33 am #

    cuban cigar

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