Sep 26

Marc Hedlund

Marc Hedlund

WebRunner 0.7 rocks

Mark Finkle has been pushing out builds of WebRunner, a Mozilla-based tool for running a standalone application with a single web site in it (a.k.a, a "Site-Specific Browser"), for some time now, but WebRunner 0.7, released today for Windows, Mac, and Linux, is ready for its close-up.

I use WebRunner for Google Reader. I double-click a .webapp file which launches a standalone process containing just Reader, with no menus, toolbars, or other noise. WebRunner has its own cookies, so my .webapp is always logged into Google, but my main browser is not, which I like for privacy reasons[1]. When I click a link in Reader, it opens in my main browser. Also, RSS readers are hugely distracting, so being able to minimize Google Reader while still having Firefox in the foreground is a good pattern.

WebRunner 0.7 adds desktop icons, so that .webapp launchers look exactly like native applications, and also adds scripting capabilities, so that the GMail .webapp can provide new-mail notification popups. It's great to see Mozilla used as a foundation for projects like these. Congrats to Mark for building such a simple and useful tool, and thanks.

[1] There is some privacy benefit to not being logged into Google all the time -- namely, that your searches are not associated with the cookie that maintains your login -- but it's a weak benefit. Google apparently also associates searches with IP addresses, and if your IP is fixed, as mine is, there's still a good likelihood that searches are discoverable. Blocking cookies only really helps if your IP address is a bad identifier (if your IP address changes, such as work vs. home or dynamic IP, or if your browsing is from the same IP as others', for instance behind NAT), but don't kid yourself about the anonymity this provides. That said, having a "cookie sandbox," which is effectively what WebRunner provides, is better than ignoring the problem; true privacy is usually gained by taking lots of small steps, not one big one.

tags: attaboys  | comments: 9   | Sphere It

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Comments: 9

  Jesse Robbins [09.26.07 12:43 PM]

One tool you can use to deal with the fixed IP identification issue is Tor.

"Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

  mike [09.26.07 01:45 PM]

ahhh interesting. I've actually stayed away from google reader all this time simply to avoid being constantly logged in to google. Though my motivation is less privacy than it is to avoid the "personalized" results shaped from query history.

If you're at all interested in seo, then the personalized results is a major pain in the neck.

And since the non-personalized serps are already highly relevant, there's no upside.

  Niklas Andersson, TechWorld Open Source [09.26.07 02:12 PM]

Thanks a lot for the tip! I tried it out and it worked great. The documentation on the link wasn't that clear though - here's a quick guide to get you started:

1. Download WebRunner and install
2. Create file called webapp.ini that contains something like:


3. Zip the file to [whatever].webapp
4. Dubbel click that file and off you go

  Matt Haughey [09.26.07 10:46 PM]

yeah, Marc, this looks like a great app but I can't for the life of me figure out how to make a configured .webapp launcher on my mac.

  Jesper [09.27.07 02:34 AM]

Im also unable to make this work by double clicking the .webapp-bundle... it just serves me some obscure error message without any suggested solutions.

  james [10.02.07 06:26 PM]

For convenience, I've put together simple webapp bundles for Google Reader and Google Notebook. Enjoy.

  rick [10.03.07 12:13 AM]

Does this come with a web server?

  Ivan Blinkov [02.05.08 09:51 PM]

Never heard about this piece of software before, but I think it should be nice expirience to try. There should be much more possible websites where such a browser could be effectively used.

  Wiktor Sarota [02.11.08 12:04 PM]

To update WebRunner has become to Prism:

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