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IT Starting To Pay Attention With Google Gears

Google isn't the first company to make Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) applications work offline. Six months ago,,browser-based messaging and collaboration vendor Zimbra released a client-side program that cached its data and Web services, but it's limited to the Zimbra suite. Gears can potentially be used by any Ajax application, and Google is giving it away under the extremely permissive New BSD license (which in practice makes it almost public domain). Google will probably get its wish of making Gears into an industry standard: There's no reason for Ajax developers not to adopt it, though enterprises building rich Internet applications should still carefully consider whether Ajax is the best platform.

Google's unstated aims are to make its own Web-based applications more competitive with locally installed software and to slow the growth of non-Ajax platforms such as Adobe Apollo, Microsoft Silverlight and Sun JavaFX. Google has currently done little towards the first: Apart from prototype applications for third-party developers, the company's only Gears-enabled application so far is Google Reader, which can now download RSS feeds for use offline. The bigger potential is in Google Docs & Spreadsheets. It looks likely to be successful in the second effort, though the other platforms go beyond Ajax in that they're not necessarily browser-based, and some (Adobe's in particular) could even make use of Gears. Gears also is likely to replace the offline capabilities planned by Mozilla for Firefox 3.0, as Google is a very strong supporter of Mozilla (contributing both money and code), and Ajax developers will prefer an architecture that works with multiple browsers.

Andy Dornan
NWC Senior Technology Editor


Google this week debuted Google Gears, an open-source project centered around a new browser extension that enables Web applications to run offline.

Together with this week's acquisition of browser security vendor GreenBorder Technologies, Google has greatly accelerated its focus on building--and helping IT build--truly useful Web applications.Google Gears is an early-stage project that the company said it ultimately hopes will emerge as a standard for delivering offline Web applications. Google is offering technology as free and fully open source. It also released a Gears-enabled version of its Google Reader to showcase the offline capabilities.

Vendors Mozilla, Opera and Adobe came out in support of Google Gears, saying they will work with Google on the project.

Google Gears is based on new JavaScript APIs that enable data storage, application caching and multithreading features within Web apps. Google said the APIs work with all major browsers on all major platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux.

Google Gears is available now at