Comparing WebRunner and Adobe AIR

Okay, maybe my tongue-in-cheek, roasting of Ryan Stewart didn’t go over so well. But, at one point in the post/rant I mention working on a project called WebRunner that, IMO, is a competitor to Adobe AIR. I, unsurprisingly, feel that WebRunner does a better job complementing the Web and is a better fit for web applications in general. Both systems allow developers to run rich internet applications (defined as you wish) on the desktop. That’s in itself is both novel and interesting to many developers. However, I think WebRunner and AIR are suited to slightly different applications.

I see Adobe AIR as a desktop runtime for Flash applications. This is a nice boon to Flash developers who have long waited to escape the browser as a runtime. Although AIR supports running DHTML/AJAX/Ajax style web applications through its embedded WebKit renderer, this will likely be overshadowed by the Flash-based applications. Of course, this is just me talking, but most “applications” I have seen running in AIR are Flash-based.

WebRunner, on the other hand, is completely built around a browser – the same browser found in Firefox. Any existing web application should operate in WebRunner without any changes. Create an instant desktop version of your web application. Of course, its not really a desktop version – its just running in a Mozilla browser without any traditional browser chrome. WebRunner doesn’t change how you build web applications. It doesn’t impose a new stack of technologies, it works with the Web.

WebRunner does have the ability to add “features” to web applications such as:

  • Support for simple desktop integrations like displaying alert popups, registering as content handlers for local files, and access to the file system.
  • Greasemonkey-like application scripting to tweak the UI, access the simple desktop integrations or add offline features, not already built into the web application.

Its important to point out that these “features” are completely optional and can be added in a very mashup-friendly manner that most web developers and power users are already using.

There is definitely more to come from WebRunner.

6 Comments

  1. Mukunda Modell said,

    August 13, 2007 @ 9:57 am

    And….drumroll please…….

    WebRunner can do flash too! :)

  2. skierpage said,

    August 13, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

    Now that recent trunk builds have the -app command-line switch to load a XULRunner app, can I start a WebRunner app from Firefox 3? I don’t want to install lots of .exes on my Windows machine.

    I’m all for replacing desktop apps with browser-based apps. My desktop apps like Quicken and (shudder) Norton 360 don’t have Ctrl-+ to zoom, you can’t select read-only text, you can’t right-click links, you can’t use LiveHTTPHeaders to watch the requests, you can’t bookmark, … They’re *MORE* primitive than browser apps. Argghhh!

  3. jerryc said,

    August 14, 2007 @ 2:14 pm

    A couple of years ago I embedded Gecko to create something in the AIR/WebRunner space. It’s working fine and provides a platform for which we can quickly and easily create content. Developing this platform, however, was not an exercise in Rapid Application Development.

    For a good percentage of projects, it’s just not practical to invest that kind of effort. That’s why I’m glad to see things like WebRunner being developed. And not a second too soon: the Adobe stuff and similar efforts have the potential to eclipse Gecko which would be a shame since Gecko has so much to offer.

  4. John Dowdell said,

    August 15, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

    “I see Adobe AIR as a desktop runtime for Flash applications. “

    Shouldn’t… no reason to believe that’s an accurate perception. Anecdotes from AIR Bus Tour show audience split 50/50 Ajax/SWF.

    “WebRunner doesn’t change how you build web applications. It doesn’t impose a new stack of technologies, it works with the Web.”

    Sounds like what others are saying about AIR today.

    Good luck with your project, I look forward to seeing what you accomplish.

    jd/adobe

  5. yod said,

    August 22, 2007 @ 9:33 am

    “I see Adobe AIR as a desktop runtime for Flash applications. “
    “Shouldn’t… no reason to believe that’s an accurate perception. Anecdotes from AIR Bus Tour show audience split 50/50 Ajax/SWF.”

    One of the advantages of AIR is to support all the Acrobat & Live Cycle stuff, which could be intersting inside a company.

  6. archaeopteryx.tv » Blog Archive » Quest’ AIR puzza un po’? said,

    August 28, 2007 @ 11:13 am

    [...] questo proposito leggi il post di Mark Finkle’s sul confronto fra WebRunner e Adobe AIR (Grazie Bard per la [...]

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