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Google Businesses The Internet

Google Gears is Launched 265

Posted by samzenpus
from the google-google-google dept.
Mister Inbetween writes "Google is rolling out a technology designed to overcome the major drawback faced by all web-based applications: the fact that they don't work without an internet connection. Google Gears is an open source technology for creating offline web applications that is being launched today at Google's annual Developer Day gatherings around the world."
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Google Gears is Launched

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  • by FST (766202) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @11:40PM (#19332241) Journal
    There are some sample applications available here [google.com] to help you get started using Google Gears. I found it pretty non-intuitive at the beginning but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it slowly.
    • I think it's just an attempt at accomplishing that (in)famous goal: "write once, run everywhere". Many have tried it before. XAML, GTK+Glade, Java, Flash, XUL are just some examples.

      I frankly don't know what Google is trying to accomplish, unless it's just a random jab at Microsoft's Office suite, meant purely to keep Microsoft on its toes (Office being their bread and butter).

      Other than that... I honestly don't get it. The Web is the closest anyone has ever got to a universal platform so far, and here they
  • Link? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SEWilco (27983) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @11:42PM (#19332247) Journal
    Shouldn't there be a link to Google Gears in the article?
    Or a CD-ROM?
  • What's the Point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaveWick79 (939388) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @11:48PM (#19332299)
    What's the point of having an offline web application?

    You might as well create your own traditional app so that you don't have to deal with compatibility and security issues with a multitude of browsers and platforms. Or maybe the idea is doing something completely opposite to what Microsoft has been doing for almost a decade now, putting the browser functionality within the app.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @11:57PM (#19332385)

      <sarcasm>
      yes becouse traditional applications work everywhere regardles of platform

      </sarcasm>

      This is a wierd day, trolls modded interesting :/
      • by Virak (897071)

        <sarcasm>yes becouse traditional applications work everywhere regardles of platform</sarcasm>

        Wow! Just like web applications!
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        how is this any different, it only works on IE or FF? you've just moved the platform from OS to browser and not gained a single thing, wiseass
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @11:59PM (#19332413) Homepage

      Web applications are inherently cross-platform-- the OS doesn't matter, only the browser. Also, they don't really require that you install anything or have admin privileges to install things, and they're accessible from any computer with an internet connection and web browser.

      The downside of web apps is that you can't take them with you. Unplug from the network and you can't use them. I guess this might be a good step towards solving that problem.

      Of course, whether this should all be built into web browsers, which were originally intended to store static pages, is an issue you could debate. Sometimes I think it might make more sense to make a browser-like framework for programs, but built from the ground up for applications instead of static pages. But then, I guess that more and more, that's what browsers are becoming.

      • So the problem is we have, what? 3 OS platforms, and 5 or 6 browsers. Seems just as easy to create apps to run on the 3 OS platforms than even the 4 major browsers. If the idea is web-hosted applications and files, sure the browser based app could make sense.
        I guess the solution is we all use Firefox for offline web apps, that way we trust Google to create the foundation for the application, ultimately the "OS within the browser" to run apps on. Why bother using the browser as a platform when you don't
        • Re:What's the Point (Score:5, Informative)

          by misleb (129952) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @01:42AM (#19333081)

          Why not just create a basic virtual machine client and load it with this fast, simple "Google OS"? The capabilities would be similar - it needs access to the local file system to store documents, and the app would run in a highly stable evironment that needs to do nothing but run apps.


          Dude, I think you just described Java. ;-)

          I hear Java Web Start even solves the problem of distributing app updates seamlessly. Not that I am a fan of Java for GUI apps as far as look and feel go, but it certainly meets to your requirements for a virtual machine and I'd probably take it over some of the HTML + JS shite that is out there.

          Why is it that nobody can see that what everyone longs for was invented more than a decade ago. It is like the 900 gorilla in the room that nobody wants to talk about.

          -matthew
        • by laffer1 (701823)
          3 OSes? WTF? Let me guess, Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Well you forget Mac OS X has intel and ppc to support. Microsoft has differences between Windows versions. An app for XP might not run in Vista x64 for instance. Linux distros are not standardized enough. You can't count on all the libraries to be present or GTK or QT to be a specific version. Then you might have users on BSDs, Solaris, ecomstation, ReactOS, BeOS, OS/2, or some other crazy thing. PDAs have different systems as do cell phones. G
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Daengbo (523424)
            Actually, his three were OpenBSD, Beos, and ReactOS. His apps will target the elite top .01% of the market.
      • Re:What's the Point (Score:5, Interesting)

        by suv4x4 (956391) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:57AM (#19332787)
        Of course, whether this should all be built into web browsers, which were originally intended to store static pages, is an issue you could debate. Sometimes I think it might make more sense to make a browser-like framework for programs, but built from the ground up for applications instead of static pages. But then, I guess that more and more, that's what browsers are becoming.

        You may want to check Adobe Apollo, a multi-platform runtime that allows you to create desktop apps based on: HTML/CSS/JS and Flash.

        It has ability to store/read data locally and basically act as a normal desktop app, but it's inherently multiplatform, because it uses platform neutral technologies (even more so than Java and .NET managed to do so far).

        Honestly I'm not sure how smart it would be to invest in Google Gears. You may want to deploy a Yahoo app.. and then what? Google's also known for their ton of search-unrelated projects which they abandon the next day.

        For Adobe, Flash and Apollo is a deal maker/breaker: if they don't get it right, Microsoft and WPF/.NET/XPF/Expression will simply throw them out of business.

        For Google, Gears is just something they did for fun in their 20%.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by misleb (129952)

          It has ability to store/read data locally and basically act as a normal desktop app, but it's inherently multiplatform, because it uses platform neutral technologies (even more so than Java and .NET managed to do so far).

          First of all, .NET was NEVER intended to be platform neutral. There's Mono, sure, but last I checked Microsoft is giving that project little or no help. Java is actually pretty good as far as cross-platform goes. I'm not a Java developer myself, but from what I understand Java developers

          • by suv4x4 (956391)
            Given a decent language like Java, why would anyone WANT to develop their apps in... Flash. Yuck.

            -matthew


            It's funny isn't it. First of all, tools. It's about rich media, and Java has only dveleopment tools. Where's the rich media/interactive capabilities? Second, Flash takes a lot less resources than Java and is a lot smaller than Java.

            But honestly, if it was all about the great syntax and sophisticated language features, we'd be still using Java applets on the web. Instead, it's all about Flash.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by mstrom (1060158)

          Honestly I'm not sure how smart it would be to invest in Google Gears. You may want to deploy a Yahoo app.. and then what? Google's also known for their ton of search-unrelated projects which they abandon the next day.

          Um, are you not aware it's Open Source [google.com]! Yahoo, you, me and everyone can use it. Google could stop supporting it if they want and the community will continue to build it!

          More to the point, since Google are using it themselves (see below) I doubt support will stop anytime soon. Open source

          • by suv4x4 (956391)
            Um, are you not aware it's Open Source! Yahoo, you, me and everyone can use it. Google could stop supporting it if they want and the community will continue to build it!

            More to the point, since Google are using it themselves (see below) I doubt support will stop anytime soon. Open source + used & supported by a major 'net company seems like a winning formula.


            You're apparently not aware of the level of battle happening right now for the rich client platform. If it would have no corporate support to push
      • by evilviper (135110)

        Web applications are inherently cross-platform

        Except that they aren't. They have to be specifically written for and tested to ensure cross-platform (cross-browser) compatibility, and even then, only the well-supported browsers are likely to work.

        Also, they don't really require that you install anything or have admin privileges to install things,

        No (normal) well-designed app requires admin privlidges to install or use.

        and they're accessible from any computer with an internet connection and web browser.

        That'

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by misleb (129952)

          You mean XUL?

          Except that XUL isn't really made for web apps. It is really for browser interface itself and for browser extensions that are installed locally. Actually writing a networked XUL app is kind of a pain because of security restrictions. I wrote a XUL app once but found that I had to install it as an extension because I could hardly do anything useful with all the restrictions when loading from a server. And if you are going to require that users install you app as an extension, the question beco

          • by evilviper (135110)

            Except that XUL isn't really made for web apps.

            Except that I wasn't recommending XUL for web apps.

            And if you are going to require that users install you app as an extension, the question becomes why use the browser at all? Why not use a real VM like Java?

            Don't ask me, ask the GP.
    • by SRA8 (859587)
      Well, you might want an offline web application for things such as web-based word processing. When you are offline, files are cached offline. When a connection is detected, files are synched back onto the server. I would imagine online word processing applications' weak like to be the constant need for a connection, especially if you are on a roaming internet connection.
      • by misleb (129952)

        Well, you might want an offline web application for things such as web-based word processing. When you are offline, files are cached offline. When a connection is detected, files are synched back onto the server.

        How about a more basic solution like syncronized network file storage so that you don't have to rewrite every damn application inside a browser to get centralized storage? That way you can use whatever word processor or speadsheet program you want and have your data synched to the internet.

        -matthe

    • a point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:34AM (#19332621) Journal
      Suppose that I, for example, run a small service-oriented business, with technicians and service trucks and customer appointments, in addition to the normal gamut of meetings and other internals. Suppose that some of these technicians are located in different towns.

      Suppose that, because of geographic disparity, it becomes a pain in the ass to manage a central paper-based schedule and keep everyone on the same page. And suppose I find that the solution to this problem is to implement some sort of network-aware calender. And, that I want to be able to access and modify this calender by a variety of means, from standalone PalmOS devices to Windows boxen to WinCE phones, because the different techs, salespeople, and managers all have their own levels of technical ability and devices of choice.

      And now, just suppose that something like Google Calender fits this bill and is put in service. Everyone knows where everyone else is, what they're doing later today (or next week). Scheduling a job can happen easily, and conflicts can be seen and avoided immediately. Life is good, and the paper schedule is forgotten (good riddance).

      With me so far?

      Good.

      Now, suppose that the Intar-web is down, and Google Calender is unreachable.

      Trucks stop rolling. Customers get angry about missed appointments. Jobs don't get done. And, the kicker: Nobody, except perhaps the stubborn old geek with an offline Palm Pilot, has any idea what anyone (including themselves!) is supposed to be doing. The company basically takes a vacation until connectivity is restored, which (in small business) means waiting as long as it takes for Time Warner or SBC to correct the problem.

      Having offline web application support, if implemented well, can fix this problem. Even if new jobs can't be scheduled electronically, at least work on existing stuff can continue, as all that it takes is one person with Firefox on a desktop machine to pass out orders.

      The worst-case, then, goes from having no data at all and a complete cessation of work, to at least having old data. A notepad and cell phones can then fill in the blanks for new jobs (just like it used to), which can be entered into the calender system once the Internet connection comes back.

      Which is quite likely good enough.

      • by misleb (129952)
        First of all, there's already calendar synchronization applications for mobile devices. Second, if this service is so critical, you probably shouldn't be hosting it on your comcast cable!

         
        • by adolf (21054)
          Firstly, while it is plain that there are already calendar synchronization applications for mobile devices, it is not plain that any of them actually fucking work across multiple platforms with a meaningful featureset. If you know differently, then please tell me about it, as from what I can see the market is full of festering shit.

          Secondly, it is obvious that you're not in small business. The choice between paying through the nose for a T1 with an SLA in small town Ohio, or converting to pen-and-paper fo
    • For that matter, what, exactly, is an offline web app? Isn't that kind of self-contradictory?
    • by Temporal (96070)

      You might as well create your own traditional app so that you don't have to deal with compatibility and security issues with a multitude of browsers and platforms.

      1) Dealing with compatibility issues between OS platforms is a whole lot harder than dealing with compatibility issues between browser platforms.

      2) Security issues? Traditional apps don't even have security. If you ask your users to install your traditional app, you're effectively asking them to give you full rights to read and possibly destro

  • by consumer (9588) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @11:58PM (#19332399)
    And here I thought it was the hideous UI and sluggish, memory-sucking JavaScript. Now I know better.
    • by foniksonik (573572) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:48AM (#19332713) Homepage Journal
      A UI is only as hideous as the UI designer has made it. I personally make amazing and intuitive UI using javascript, html and css. You'll never see them on the web though. You may see one in a Kiosk at a museum or on the back of an airplane in first class sometime though. They run locally via a browser pulling data from a central server but pulling UI assets and logic from a client side cache.

      You can do some amazing things with today's Javascript libraries, DOM scripting, CSS manipulation and a SQL store. Look at Apple's Dashboard widgets, Konfabulator widgets, etc. for examples of what can be done (and yes when you turn an amateur developer base loose with easy to use tools, they'll come up with some pretty ugly and pointless things too).

      BTW Javascript is only as memory sucking as the implementation, ie the browser in most cases. A good javascript engine will not leak memory like a sieve... and a good javascript library will minimize memory leaks even in a poor implementation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Why am I the only one here who actually thinks about usability of software?

        Having "web applications" that do not conform to a solid consistent format is HORRIBLE for usability. Users now have to learn how to use 10 different widget scrollbars, some which work and some that don't... instead of just using the one scrollbar their window manager comes with. There is no consistency between the GUIs of various software, and no guarantee it'll work on your particular system in the way YOU want it to work.

        And why a
    • by aussie_a (778472)
      I use Google Docs (for non-important data) along with Gmail and Google Personal Homepage. I like the UI in all and have no problem with my computer or the page being "sluggish." Perhaps its time you updated your computer? Because mine is hardly cutting edge and has no problem. So I can only imagine how old your computer must be to be having these problems.
  • by chromozone (847904) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:03AM (#19332447)
    The EFF said don't use Google Desktop because of vulnerabilities" "[We urge] consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password," the EFF said in a statement" http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1925064,00.as p [eweek.com] If Google is under pressure from some governments to hide things, from others to store and reveal things - why would people want more, more, more Google and their vulnerabilities on a computer? As bad as Microsoft is I would rather deal with the devil I still know then the Googlers who seem to want to be the center of the cyber-universe in a way that seems more grandiose than even M$. They lost me when the started censoring stuff here US never mind China.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Daychilde (744181)
      Yeah, whatever.

      No company is all evil, not even Microsoft. And no company is all angelic, as most think about Google. I know you don't think Google is angelic - but I don't think they're all evil, either.

      Companies look out for themselves. Once people realize that, it really helps. They aren't good. They aren't evil. They exist to serve the shareholders (or owners, if not public)...

      I like the EFF, but I disagree with them on this one. The recent /. pointer to the "Ten Firefox Extensions To avoid OZMG!11" art
      • Companies look out for themselves. Once people realize that, it really helps. They aren't good. They aren't evil. They exist to serve the shareholders (or owners, if not public)...

        Yes, but some companies manage to align their interests and those of their customers, while others make money by screwing their customers. You can figure out which is which.
    • by dwater (72834)
      > Who Wants MORE Google?

      Yeah. *Another* Google app.

      Yyyyeeeeaawwwwnnn.
  • by jihadist (1088389) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:11AM (#19332497) Homepage Journal
    Google is slowly reinventing the computer... to be a lot like what it was 20 years ago, except through a web browser. Just think, in the 1970s we all used ultra-thin clients called Teletype terminals to connect to mainframes. Then came the PC revolution, and soon we all had slower machines of our own. Then all those machines got as fast as mainframes, and we got the Internet, and started connecting to each other. Now we're going back to ultra-thin-clients connecting not to mainframes but to Google's giant server farm where they store all our personal data and promise not to abuse it. Nothing ever really changes, does it?
    • by Asmor (775910)
      I'm glad I'm not the only one who made that observation. I actually talked about this with my boss not too long ago (about a month or so ago, I think).

      The way I see it, I think that we're going to see a convergence of web-based and traditional applications... Specifically, I think that in N years (where N is some number I don't want to hazard a guess on, but not too far off...), everyone will have a personal server at home and a complement of terminals which access it. Their TV will access it, their phone,
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dodobh (65811)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LKM (227954)
      The difference is that we all have multiple computers now. We have a computer at work, one in the living room, one in the home office, we have a cell phone running Symbian or some other advanced OS, we have a Wii or a PS3, probably some kind of set-top box with Internet access... So you have your stuff shared across many different PCs, and you get synchronization issues. What if you want to read your personal mail at work? What if you're at a friend's place and want to quickly show him some holiday pictures
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:22AM (#19332559)
    There are a number of web servers that are fairly tiny and run on PCs... Nothing stopping a stand-alone browser application from installing it's own web server...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nmoog (701216)
      This release does have its own web server in it. It's creatively called "LocalServer".
    • by simong (32944)
      Isn't it? I have a USB key plugged into my machine that has XAMPP [apachefriends.org] on it, and installed copies of Joomla [joomla.org], Mediawiki [mediawiki.org] and other PHP apps as I need. Something to synchronise MySQL databases between machines would be handy but I'm sure there's something around if the need arose.
  • by figleaf (672550) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:43AM (#19332669) Homepage
    IE had this feature for ages. HTA (HTML Applications) can be offline applications.
    And now Firefox is getting the same feature.

    Why do we need yet another plug-in.
  • web apps suck (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436)
    what the hell is the benifit of web apps if they just shift dependancy from the OS to the browser? all their achieving is creating slower more limited applications.

    if we head in the direction of download first web apps.... how is this better then just downloading a compiled app? certainly not cross platform - you need IE or FF to run it.

  • The iPhone doesn't support desktop style apps. This could help bridge the gap if google / Apple were to support something like gears on the iPhone's browser.
  • Silly me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by misleb (129952) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @01:22AM (#19332965)
    Silly me, i thought the major drawback of web based applications was that HTML sucks for building rich applications.

    So basically what Gears offers is the worst of both worlds. A terrible rich application dev environment (HTML + JS) combined with database concurrency headaches. Awesome!

    -matthew
  • IBM... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @01:51AM (#19333153)
    Of course IBM rolled this [techtarget.com] out six years ago in the Domino server, although I don't really expect Google's offering to handle Replication/Save conflicts as well as Domino does. Of course, now that there is actually another product out, the anti-Notes trolls can start complaining that the 6 year old tech from IBM isn't using the same API that the brand new offering from Google uses.
    • Re:IBM... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by misleb (129952) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @02:21AM (#19333325)

      Of course IBM rolled this [techtarget.com] out six years ago in the Domino server, although I don't really expect Google's offering to handle Replication/Save conflicts as well as Domino does.


      From the sound of it, Google expects the developer to handle database synchronization issues. And in some cases, you actually have to duplicate your business logic in the browser in Javascript to make the app function offline at all. Ouch!

      http://code.google.com/apis/gears/architecture.htm l [google.com]

      I'm not touching this tech with a 10 foot pole. Internet access is getting more an more ubiquitous. In the not too distant future the entire concept of being "offline" will be all but forgotten. I'm much more focused on making web apps not suck when they are ONLINE. Who has time to worry about what happens when they are offline?

      -matthew
  • No thanks (Score:2, Funny)

    by z-j-y (1056250)
    I cannot work without internet. How am I supposed to check slashdot from time to time?
  • offline web apps (Score:4, Interesting)

    by l3v1 (787564) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @02:12AM (#19333279)
    Thing is, I like the mozilla approach ( http://www.bluishcoder.co.nz/2007/02/offline-zimbr a-with-firefox.html [bluishcoder.co.nz] ) better. I think it's because there's no need to install 3rd party apps and such. But thing is, as it seems Google is ahead in this, and if people start adopting it (remains to be seen) then the mozilla approach probably won't stir too much water when it's released.
     
  • by zobier (585066)
    I'm at the GDDAU and saw the demo, this is very interesting.
  • Dojo Offline? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @03:41AM (#19333743)
    How does this compare to Dojo Offline?

    http://dojotoolkit.org/offline [dojotoolkit.org]
  • It will be interesting to see whether you can use Google Docs offline with the Palm Foleo. The Foleo seems ideal for these kinds of apps.

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