Google Gears - The Next Big Thing

I don’t do a good Nostradamus impression, but I think the release of Google Gears last week will end up being a very big deal.

In case you missed the hubbub, Google Gears is “a open source browser extension that lets developers create web applications that can run offline.”

Applications that used to exist in the desktop space are rapidly moving to the web. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, image editors (a light version of Photoshop is coming soon), even spatial data editing, are being done online. Web 2.0 technologies like AJAX have made the web applications more desktop-like, and the increasing availability of high speed Internet access has reduced bandwidth concerns. New technologies like Adobe Apollo and Microsoft Silverlight move web applications from your browser directly to your desktop.

The glaring problem with the Web 2.0 approach is the “Web” part. If you aren’t connected to the web, you can’t access your applications. And there are times, WiFi and air cards included, when you won’t be able to access the web. Whether you are out in neverland GPS’ing cow flatulence and out of reach of your wireless network or you’re on a long flight to New Zealand to look for Rivendell or you just drove through a tunnel, you’re going to be out of the long reach of the web. If your applications run on the web, you’re left with nothing but solitaire.

That’s where Google Gears comes in. It has two key features that allow online apps to run when you’re off-line.

  • LocalServer: Caches and serve application resources (HTML, JavaScript, images, etc.) locally.
  • Database: Store data locally in a fully-searchable relational database (the ubiquitous SQLite).
It also has a WorkerPool component that speeds applications by allowing resource-intensive processes to run asynchronously.

Google Gears, as pretty much everything Google, is in Beta, but they’re already starting to use it with some of their online applications (Reader for one). Google has teamed up with Adobe, Mozilla and Opera, among others, to advance Gears, and they are also working with Adobe Apollo and Microsoft Silverlight.

Perhaps my crystal ball is again misleading me (I haven’t picked a Super Bowl winner in….ever), but I think this is going to be a big deal. I think it patches the biggest problem with Web 2.0 desktop application replacement.

If you want to download and play around with Google Gears, you can get it here.