Google grinds Gears to a halt

The search giant is no longer developing the software for using web apps offline, and says similar functionality is heading into new web standards

Google has announced the impending death of Gears, its software for using web applications offline.

The company has shifted its focus from Gears to new web standards such as HTML 5, which include similar functionality, Google's Ian Fette blogged on Friday. "Gears has taken us the first part of the way; now we're excited to see browsers take us the rest of the way," he wrote.

Fette pointed out that the version of the Chrome browser that shipped in January natively supports a database API similar to that of Gears. It also includes new APIs such as Local Storage and Web Sockets, and the ability for web apps to run JavaScript code in the background.

"Other facets of Gears, such as the LocalServer API and Geolocation, are also represented by similar APIs in new standards and will be included in Google Chrome shortly," Fette wrote.

Google is a key contributor to the development of the HTML 5 standard. It is also developing its own cloud-based operating system, Chrome OS, which is based on the Chrome browser and has offline capabilities.

Gears has made its way into many applications since its 2007 launch, adding offline functionality to Google's own Gmail service, as well as to some MySpace and WordPress services.

Fette acknowledged that there was no easy way as yet for developers to take their existing, Gears-enabled applications and move them across to a "standards-based approach". He said Google will continue to support Gears "until such a migration is more feasible".

He added that Google would be unable to support Gears in Safari on Mac OS X Snow Leopard and later versions, due to "large architectural changes" made in the Apple browser. However, support for the software in Firefox and Internet Explorer will continue.

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