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Google Gears for Offline Web Apps May 31, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.

Google Gears — great name, btw — is an open-source browser plug-in aimed at making Web apps work offline. It’s a cool initiative, but it’s very, very beta and almost no one’s built anything with it yet. In the grand scheme of Google announcements, this is still a medium-scale deal, at best.

Gears comprises three applications and their accompanying APIs: a local server, a tiny database (SQLite, with Google’s full-text indexing), and a background synchronizer (browsers are pretty much single-threaded, so this might help connected performance, too, as well as run in the background.) A new version of Google’s RSS Reader is the first implementation. Gears will support Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, with Apple’s Safari still to come.

Scoble and TechCrunch explain it well, and the comments are intriguing. Michael Gartenberg had some deployment issues.

Note how neither Gmail nor any of Google’s “office” apps are supported yet. That said, this is clearly a Microsoft-like “platform” play, rendered in classic Google style. That is, no restrictions (open-source, even), mash-up friendly, broadly useful. However, that also means minimal support for developers, at least so far. Gears was announced at Google’s first real developers’ day. Slightly surprising, there are no Web services Gears is explicitly optimized for.

And, oddly, there’s no immediately obvious way to tie into Google’s ad networks. The truly unique innovation from Google in platforms is that it brings a revenue stream along for the ecosystem, something Microsoft’s still figuring out how to do well. Even though persistent Web apps would be an interesting advertising platform.

And, boy, does this bring back memories. Me and my old boss Dave Smith debating software platforms. Feels like 1995.

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