FOSDEM '08 is a free and non-commercial event organised by the community, for the community. Its goal is to provide Free and Open Source developers a place to meet.


Interview: Mark Finkle

Mozilla Platform Evangelist Mark Finkle will present at FOSDEM to (so we guess) 'evangelize' the audience about Prism.

What do you hope to be the effect of your talk?

I'd like to see some open discussion on desktop enabling web applications. Is it good or bad? How can it become more useful to end users?

With Firefox 3 (Gecko 1.9) nearing completion, I'd like to make sure the people are aware of what new features are coming and what they can expect from the new user interface changes.

How does a typical day of a Platform Evangelist' look like?

I spend a lot of time working with people building extensions and XULRunner applications. I (along with others) provide support in the way of code examples and reviews, tutorials and sample projects. I also try to keep the development community informed of new features and changes to existing features. I act as an extension and application developer advocate inside Mozilla.

Usability is a major goal of Prism... Does this involve doing usability testing as well?

We have done no formal usability testing on Prism yet, but any UI in Prism has had some input from the Mozilla User Experience group. We are working on the basic feature set at the moment. We also try to keep the UI in Prism to a minimum, letting the web application "own the stage".

Is Google Gears a part of Prism?

Google Gears is an extension and is not shipped with Prism. Trunk versions of Prism support extension add-ons and, therefore, support Google Gears - but not without some tweaks. Google Gears does not currently recognize Prism. We are planning to work with the Gears group and submit a patch to allow Gears and Prism to work together.

The Gears announcement was a bit of a suprise. Can we expect similar 'shocking' announcements in the near future?

I don't know of any :)

WebRunner, a former version of Prism, seems to be preinstalled on gOS and I think Prism may be packaged with Ubuntu (Hardy Heron).

Which technologies in Firefox 3 could be considered as 'Prism-enabling'?

I think those can be divided into 2 groups: XUL platform and Web platform.

Prism will get a nice deployment boost with Firefox 3 supporting XUL applications as a XUL runtime. That means we can ship a Prism extension to Firefox3 that don't require a XULRunner download.

Many of the new web content features in Firefox 3 (and the underlying Gecko platform) will make Prism a better web application platform. Examples included offline storage and events, native methods for getElementByClassName and JSON parsing, cross-site XHR (XmlHttpRequest, ed.) and web protocol handlers.

Are there plans to extend the integration with the desktop systems on which Prism runs?

Yes, we are adding some components to Prism that will allow icon creation from favicon (all platforms), running on system trays (windows) and badging the dock icon (mac).

There is currently a lot of attention for 'Rich Internet Applications', which claim to go beyond the capabilities of Ajax and the DOM. How does this RIA concept fit into Prism?

Prism is a platform for desktop enabling web applications. Currently, this means we introduce no new APIs to the web application itself. The web application uses the same APIs that make web apps great in a traditional browser, plus whatever plugins / extensions have added.