Google Gears

Gears‘ is a new bit of kit from Google aimed at providing offline website capabilities. A bit of an oxymoron really, but until wireless Internet is ubiquitous (not far off…) there’ll always be times when you just can’t fire up your favourite web application and do some work in the middle of nowhere.

I’m still trying to get my head around the actual long-term implications, and how this will affect the web application market (think Office Live; Google Docs & Spreadsheets, anything 37signals, and millions of others).  It seems that there’s certainly an appetite for programs in the browser, and personal experience would seem to agree with this – I’ve often wanted a form of Google Reader to run whilst offline (sorry, but I’ve yet to find a desktop app that is nearly as straightforwardly useful and usable as Reader), and all my timesheeting is done from a website running on a local webserver.

As it happens, Google Reader is the first piece of ‘software’ to support offline usage, but the law of Sod kicks in: the ‘Offline’ link that appeared before I installed Google Gears has disappeared since restarting Firefox. Bugger.

This isn’t a new or innovative idea – Firefox 3 has long been heralded as being capable of offline web services and there’s some mumbling about Opera in the press release. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what the ‘community’ make of this addition and how it affects the delivery of web applications.