Google Gears - the game has changed

Google Gears - the game has changed

Summary: I'm not often left feeling completely astonished these days. I like to think I'm pretty on top of where things are going. But I just got completely blindsided by Google Gears. There's already plenty of first-glance analysis to help you grasp the magnitude of what they've done. I recommend you start by listening to David Berlind's podcast interview with Linus Upson, a director of engineering at Google about the back story on Gears and what Google is aiming to accomplish with this broadside.

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TOPICS: Google
7

Wow!

I'm not often left feeling completely astonished these days. I like to think I'm pretty on top of where things are going. But I just got completely blindsided by Google Gears. There's already plenty of first-glance analysis to help you grasp the magnitude of what they've done. I recommend you start by listening to David Berlind's podcast interview with Linus Upson, a director of engineering at Google about the back story on Gears and what Google is aiming to accomplish with this broadside.

Then you can pop over to Techmeme and read until you can't take any more guessing, prognosticating, and crystal ball gazing. There's a huge thread of posts and counter-posts already piling up and at this hour (10:25 p.m. Mountain time) the pace with which this is pushing everything else off the page is pretty impressive.

Rather than trying to tell you "what it all means", I thought a quick display of Gears in action would be infinitely more interesting. Here's what I did in about five minutes to turn Google Reader, the tool I'm using to manage my RSS habit these days, into an offline reader. Follow along because I think you'll be every bit as blown away as I am at how easy this is.

Google Gears Firefox add-inStep 1 - Install Google Gears (as a Firefox add-in in my case). Windows, Mac and Linux Firefox are supported as is Internet Explorer. Safari support is promised soon according to the podcast interview mentioned above.

Google Gears downloadStep 2 - Click the offline button in Google Reader (next to the account name in the upper right corner of the window). Google Reader asks if you want to download content before going offline. Downloading 2000 items took only a couple of minutes over a WiFi connection.

Google Gears offlineStep 3 – Disconnect from the intertubes and read your RSS feeds as if you were still connected. When you reconnect to the network, Google Reader synchronizes your local changes (items read, shared and/or starred) with the server and updates new content from your subscription list. Seamless.

Step 4 – There is no Step 4.

This is big folks. In my admittedly limited testing the offline reading experience is completely consistent with what I've come to expect when working with Reader online (with the exception of images which are not downloaded for offline viewing). Google is open-sourcing Gears and, as David points out in the post accompanying his podcast interview, they've taken a huge step towards defining a de facto standard for taking web apps offline. The reason I think this isn't just crazy Web 2.0 hype is that Adobe has announced they are aligning their Apollo efforts with the approach Google's taken with Gears as there are significant similarities in how the two companies have have approached their online/offline application solutions.

There are probably a few freaked out people in the web and hybrid application worlds right about now. Because the game has changed.

Topic: Google

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7 comments
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  • googleizeit

    What is so great about working offline. Perhaps for the users who still use dial up. Then adding downloading content to use offline would take forever. If one is using "always" connected broadband service, then why would he want to work offline when he's connected to online all the time. Doesn't make sense to me. Another thing is that Google has so many add ons that if one isn't careful, his computer will become completely "googleized." True they have many good add-ons, but google's policy of letting their employees invent just about anything, then sanction it as a good product makes for a lot of useless garbage. Same way for add-ons for IE, Firefox and others. Soon your computer will be bogged down with so many apps, plug-ins and other stuff just to make something work. Example, the plug-in for ABC's full screen is different than CNN's news cast as well as others. There is no standard plug-in to watch all of these news cast video's. So what you have is a cluttered computer and some of these plug-ins conflict with each other. Example, when I downloaded the plug in for ABC's "launch center" to watch their full screen broadcasts video's, the Video plug-in for CNN quit working. And so what is the purpose of all this. To keep a person sitting at his computer for hours and hours while not getting any work done at all. Buy this, buy that. Download this, download that. The internet is getting worse than TV for commercialism and trying to hook users into all sorts of things. More people are on the internet than watch TV. Oh well, just another day in the life of a perpetual internet ZDNet.com reader.

    Mel
    melvins-12449368
    • Mobile Devices

      This technology is really key on mobile devices. Wireless coverage in the country is not at 100%. Laptops, PDAs, browser phones, etc. will all benefit greatly from this. Your desktop with a broadband connection? Probably no point in downloading Gears. However, I've already got it on both my laptops and wondering when it's going to be available for my WAP browser on my phone. :)

      Also, please use paragraphs. A solid block of text like the one you typed is tough to parse through.
      william.furr
      • You nailed it William!

        For those of us who are highly mobile, taking online content and applications offline is highly desirable. Gears is on my Mac and will be on my Tablet PC as soon as I get to the office. The one thing I've disliked about my decision to use Google Reader as my RSS tool is the amount of time I find myself offline (planes, expensive hotels, etc.). Now that's been addressed. When they do the same for Gmail, I'll be even happier.
        morchant
      • But, it will speed up web applications on a desktop. It will make web

        applications feel more like regular applications. It will also make your ISP happy, as you will use less bandwidth!
        DonnieBoy
  • Not Surprised

    I'm not in the least surprised to see this sort of thing come out of Google.

    It's been a research topic for some time now, though mostly in the context of Java and Apache Derby (JavaDB). It was only a matter of time before someone else did it without Java.

    The only part that's surprising to me is the buy-in from Adobe. I was betting on a proliferation of APIs and plugins for the "Synchronized Web" with no clear standard emerging for a while. Looks like Google is trying to head everyone else off at the pass and get a standard in place early. (At least for non-Java apps).

    http://weblogs.java.net/blog/forsini/archive/2006/04/embedding_apach.html
    http://blogs.sun.com/FrancoisOrsini/entry/derby_apachecon_demo
    http://developers.sun.com/javadb/overview/product_tour/index.jsp
    http://www28.cplan.com/cc158/session_details.jsp?isid=286970&ilocation_id=158-1&ilanguage=english
    william.furr
    • Agreed - Adobe buy-in is a big sign

      I know there's a lot of Google angst out there right now and some of it is well-deserved. But as I wrote in my post and you've pointed out here, the real cause for joy/concern is the alignment between Adobe Apollo and Google Gears. Having participated in the standards process for many years, I know full well what this sort of preemptive alignment of powerful forces can do to influence the eventual "this is how it's done" thinking that drives de facto standards. It's powerful mojo and difficult to overcome.

      Like it or not, this is a bold and visionary step to define the online/offline hybridization standard and I'm not at all surprised to see Adobe sign up. I'm guessing there's a bit of excess stomach acid gurgling in the Silverlight team's collective tummy this morning. Derby fans are probably reaching for the TUMS as well.
      morchant
  • Have you heard of Slingshot?

    This has already been done for Ruby-on-rails apps. Take a look at Joyent's Slingshot
    functionality, which has been made open source. It's nice to see so many efforts
    made at solving the offline issues. We don't have to wait on Microsoft and Adobe to
    get somewhere . . . .
    curtiscarmack