May 30, 2007 4:00 PM PDT

Google kicks offline Web apps into gear

Google engineers have enabled what Internet surfers for years have yearned for--Web applications that work offline.

The search giant on Wednesday launched Google Gears, a browser plug-in that will let people run Web applications when they're connected to the Internet or not.

The company released the source code for the Google Gears software in conjunction with Google Developer Day, a daylong conference in 10 locations.

The goal of Google Gears is to create a single, standardized way to add offline capabilities to Web applications, said Linus Upson, engineering director at Google.

The initial code is aimed at JavaScript developers who write Ajax-style Web applications. It runs on Internet Explorer on Windows; Firefox on Windows, Mac OS and Linux; and on the Safari Mac OS browser.

Google expects to have a consumer-ready release of Google Gears, which will be under 1 megabyte in size, "within months." It also expects to submit the code to a standards body so that it will eventually be built into all standards-compliant browsers, Upson said.

"It's been a long time since the Web has gained new fundamental capabilities. I think it's been about 10 years," said Upson. One of the key capabilities of Ajax development--XMLHttpRequest--came out in 1998 and took years to catch on, in part because of applications like Google Maps.

Google engineers took on the task of bringing offline access to Web browsers because customers of its hosted Web applications complained about not being able to work when disconnected, Upson said.

"One of the reasons we're doing Gears is that developers here at Google have really pushed the envelope on what can be done in the browser so engineers are hitting barriers harder and faster," he said.

The first application to have offline access through Google Gears is Google Readers, the company's RSS reader. Once people install the browser plug-in, they can read RSS content when they're offline and synchronize with the RSS feed provider when they get back online.

As part of the announcement, Google said Google Gears has been endorsed by the Mozilla Foundation, makers of the open-source Firefox browser, as well as Flash developer Adobe Systems and Opera Software, which makes the Opera browser.

Under the covers
By releasing the Google Gear code, the company hopes to get feedback from developers before releasing a consumer plug-in.

The software itself has three components--a local Web server which runs in the browser, the open-source database SQLite for storage, and browser extensions that allow multiple JavaScript jobs to run in parallel.

With that architecture, end users will be able to run Web applications even if they have flaky network connections or if the Web server they are accessing is bogged down. Having a browser capable of running multiple JavaScript scripts, or threads, means that the browser is less likely to get locked up.

"What we wanted to enable was to make applications that essentially run off local data even when you're connected to the network because defining or detecting that (connection state) is very hard," said Upson.

The local SQLite database, while small in size, is capable of saving gigabytes of data, although Google intends to set up Google Gears so that Web application providers have to ask permission from users to store data locally.

Google engineers have already started work on adding full-text searching to SQLite, Upson said.

Other companies have taken on the challenge of making Web applications run offline before but there still lacks a generic, widely used method.

See more CNET content tagged:
Web application, Google Inc., JavaScript, Web browser, developer

12 comments

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The birthday of Google OS!!!
We'll remember today as the day that the internet changed
(again)!
Posted by lmasanti (293 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not yet
Web apps are cool. Still, there are two, too many obstacles that need hurdled. Security and bandwidth. Even it the obstacles are overcome, is it desirable? Not for me.
Posted by suyts (824 comments )
Link Flag
Not new, java as the same thing
its called java webstart

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://java.sun.com/products/javawebstart/" target="_newWindow">http://java.sun.com/products/javawebstart/</a>
Posted by sundance_tree (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google the new Copy Cat
Google is copying ideas from another Project/company where the patent is pending....Following are examples of this...

Universal ID
Semantic Search
Saving Search Results
Access Applications and online data Offline
Integrated Communication Tools (Email/Messaging/VoIP)

I guess future ideas that google will try and copy is as follows:

Single Click Search based eCommerce
Grid Enabled Multiple and Simultaneous Search
Grid Enabled Applications
Advertising based on User Preferences
Search and Auto-Match based on User Preferences
AI Agents for Search
P2P based Communication and Collaboration Tools

I guess once the patent is granted to the creator of original ideas, Google may have to face patent infringement on these betas.
Posted by guyfrom2006 (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe Maybe not.
A lot of ideas are not as orginal as you might think.

A word processor was nothing more than an electronic typewriter and a typewriter a more condensed version of a printing press etc.

First to patent a common idea one way, does not close the door to other patents about the same idea done other ways.
Posted by Renegade Knight (13748 comments )
Link Flag
Ideas
cannot be patented. Only implementations.

Otherwise, Arthur C. Clarke would be the richest man in the world, for his original idea of the geosynchronous satellite.

And ~they~ laughed at it in 1945 ...
Posted by NoVista (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really... Google OS?
Please remember that it requirs three mainstream "OS" to run, google don't have enough R&#38;D to make one.
Posted by Kenny Yeung (25 comments )
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Industy demands the Green Card whip
Industy wants to keep control of the Green Card.

Industry has come out against the current immigration bill, because this bill takes away the Green Card whip that industry has wielded, for decades,like a sword of damacles on their immigrant employees.

Currently an employer must start and complete the Green Card application for an employee wanting to stay in the United States. If the employee changed jobs before completion, the employee would risk losing the green card.

The Immigration reform bill would put control of the Green Card application in the hands of the people, and award green cards on the basis of merit (not employer loyalty). Merit such as learning English, learning a skill... things that almost all U.S. citizens agree an immigrant should possess.

Industry is very afraid of the current bill, this bill would remove the whip that industry has wielded for years against an employee changing jobs. That inability to strike, walk-off-the-job, change-jobs, look for a better job, is what makes foreign labor so attractive to industry in the United States.

I urge everyone to write their senators and tell them NOT allow any amendment that puts the shackles back on people immigrating to this country. People should be free to choose their employer, and not be indentured to their employer in order to become citizens. There are ammendments being proposed by a group of SPECIAL-INTEREST only senators, that would keep the shackles on.

I urge you to write you Senator (or future senator if you are working on become a citizen) and tell them that you oppose any such ammendment. Keep control of your future here, and help others to keep control over theirs.
Posted by reggy6654 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NO! We need MORE shackles on immigration
I totally disagree, I think we need even more shackles on immigration. I am tired of immigrants coming to this country getting FREE rides from welfare, social security, medical services, small business loans, etc., with next to no background checks. I was born and raised in this country and can't get affordable health care or one red cent to start my own business, even with a perfect credit history, no criminal history, etc. We should take care of our own citizens first!
Posted by LastRebelOnTheRoad (4 comments )
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Bring back BeOS!
If only BeOS were still alive... thanks Palm for killing it off... what were you thinking?!
Posted by LastRebelOnTheRoad (4 comments )
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