Gearing up the standards with Google Gears

8th Jun 2010
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In my last post on Mozilla Weave or Firefox Sync (http://yourstory.in/resources/technology-talk/4105-mozilla-weave--carry-your-web-experience-with-you) I had mentioned about the importance of investing in R&D. I had also promised to discuss about a product from Google labs in my next post last time. So here it is, its called Google Gears.

If you are an avid user of Gmail, you would have noticed a feature called Labs in it. If you have not, do check it out before reading further. It is a place where the Google engineers post their addons for Gmail. They are prone to be buggy and will be in the beta stage. If any addon receives a lot of positive feedback from the users, it will be adopted for the main stream. Apart from this, Google has a lot of such experiments going on which you can find at

http://code.google.com

When any of these experiments show good results, they are taken up and developed professionally and supported officially by Google as in the previous case. One such experiment is called Google Gears. It aims to provide users the ability to use the internet offline like how they use it online. It released an Ajax/JavaScript based API that developers can integrate in their programs to provide the 'offline' feature. One famous implementation is Offline-Gmail. Other implementations are Wordpress, Blogspot, Zoho mail, Google Calender, RSS etc. Soon, Gears was a huge success and several upgradations were made in the subsequent versions. The API was very simple. It contains three segments. So whichever software was to be provided as 'offline', just these three segments need to be defined properly. They are

  1. LocalServer: This contains the data and client side scripts that will be stored on the client machine. So when the computer is offline and the specific service is accessed, it is loaded from this LocalSever. When the computer is connected to the internet, the version on the LocalServer is checked with the one on the website it is really offered and updated if needed.
  2. Database: Instead of using a flat file to store the data, Google chose to use a database instead. So a SQLite server is used in which all the required data can be stored.
  3. WorkerPool: This contains the scripts that run in the background to update the version in the LocalServer.

Using this API, Google Gears provided developers the ability to provide offline feature of their software to as much extent as possible. To take things to the next level, Google developed a Gears addon for Firefox and Internet Explorer and shipped it default with Chrome in various stages. Once this is installed, Gears started providing offline even the normal websites and load the websites faster as the parts of the site which do not change often like the CSS is loaded from the client machine.

More and more development was made and Gears was becoming the next big thing. When it was time to start working on Gears 2.0, Google made a dramatic decision. It was around this time that the new standard for HTML (the most basic building block for websites) was getting ready. So Google has decided to push Gears 2.0 as HTML 5. Hence, all the features that Gears 2.0 was expected to serve, will be served by HTML5. Thus, Gears is getting ready to revolutionise completely the way internet is going to funtion with the advent of HTML5.

Though Google does not add any new features to the current version of Gears that is available, it is still supported with minimal scope. To download it, visit http://gears.google.com

I guess you'll have a good experience with Gears. Until my next post, take care!

- Harish.R

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