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Google Gears Grind Out Web Apps

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Google announced an open source browser extension that enables web applications to run offline.

Google Gears Grind Out Web Apps
"Google Gears Grind Out Web Apps"
Google Gears Grind Out Web Apps

Google wrapped up its Developer Day in Sydney, Australia, with a handful of announcements. One of them will help make its many applications available to people who are temporarily without a web connection, like business travelers.

"Unfortunately, today’s web browsers lack some fundamental building blocks necessary to make offline web applications a reality," Google’s Aaron Boodman and Erik Arvidsson said in their post on the new Google Gears blog.

"In other words, we found we needed to add a few new gears to the web machinery before we could get our apps to run offline," they said of Google Gears. "It adds just enough to AJAX to make current web applications work offline."

The browser extension will work with any Gears-enabled application. Though Google is working with Adobe, as well as browser makers Mozilla and Opera, Gears sounds like a project that will compete with Adobe Apollo.

Three core modules for Gears have been released: LocalServer, Database, and WorkerPool. "Gears today covers what we think is the minimal set of primitives required for offline apps," said Boodman and Arvidsson.

One of the first projects for Google Gears is a new version of the Google Reader for RSS feeds. The comapny’s Chris Wetherell talked about that on the Google Reader blog:

Once you’ve installed Google Gears, you can download your latest 2,000 items so they’re available even when you don’t have an internet connection. To get started, simply click the “Offline” link in the top right of Google Reader.

We gave the offline reader option a try on one of our machines, and noticed one immediate improvement the offline experience has over the online one. It’s a heck of a lot faster in performance working with those 2,000 items locally, rather than waiting for Reader to churn through the next 60 items in the Boing Boing feed.

Google Gears only grabbed the text from the feeds, though. No images or videos offline. That certainly helps the download speed in getting feeds into the Gears database, but in the case of feeds like Boing Boing’s it really kills the more interesting parts of many of their posts.

Google Gears Grind Out Web Apps
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