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Google Businesses The Internet

Google Gears is Launched 265

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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  • 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?
  • 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 nine-times ( 778537 ) <> 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.

  • 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",1895,1925064, p [] 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.
  • 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 AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:15AM (#19332521) Homepage Journal

    It seems that Google Gears can be used for more than offline applications.

    Yes, but you have to get the user to install the plugin and accept the security warnings. Only *then* will it be available to online apps.

    The market has been avoiding plugins for a long time due to the difficulty of getting end users to install the plugin software. Even with the (relative) simplicity of Microsoft ActiveX install, it often turns off the users. As a result, there are only two plugins you can (mostly) count on: Flash and Java. And that's only because they're usually installed by default.

    Anyone using this for online content is taking a pretty large risk unless they control the computers that run it. e.g. It might make sense in corporate settings were updates are pushed by a central server. But that's a much smaller portion of the market than, say, Google Docs.

    Of course, I imagine that Google will try to make some of these issues go away by shipping the software as part of their Google Desktop and GTalk downloads. Combined with potential downloads for the desktop application versions of their webapps, Google may get a pretty good market penetration. In which case their solution will be awesome. (Yay!) Though still only a psuedo-standard. (Boo!) :-)

    * IE7 has reversed that trend with plugin pages being blocked by default. Try their demos in IE7, and you'll find it to be less userfriendly than it should be.
  • 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...
  • a point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adolf ( 21054 ) <> 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?


    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.

  • Re:Great idea. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Daychilde ( 744181 ) <> on Thursday May 31, 2007 @12:39AM (#19332645) Homepage
    I think this *is* a "sane way".

    I think Java had some great goals; I don't think it worked as well as it was promised...

    Will this follow Java in that? We'll see...
  • 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.

  • web apps suck (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @01:07AM (#19332851)
    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.

  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Thursday May 31, 2007 @01:21AM (#19332953) Homepage Journal

    i simply do not understand this statement? is it about reaching the most users or about you having a bug up your ass?

    It's about coding to the standards. Firefox, Safari, and Opera are all (more or less) standards compliant. It's quite easy to write code for all three of them. IE is NOT standards compliant, and has become a cancer upon the web. If enough sites start pushing neat features that IE doesn't support, users will begin upgrading to a better browser. (One that looks better, too!) That will either force Microsoft to fix their browser or make IE irrelevant.

    Of course, that's just a pipe dream for now. But with neat stuff like Canvas, Storage, Event-Source, Video, and Audio showing up in the latest web browsers, it's tempting to pull the plug on IE for even a small portion of a site. Especailly sites that provide services to popular embedded devices like cellphones or the Wii.
  • 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!

  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @01:28AM (#19333003)

    I'd rather put a sign up on my site that says, "IE Users not welcome, upgrade to a REAL browser" than not support the millions of mobile and home gaming machines out there.

    i simply do not understand this statement? is it about reaching the most users or about you having a bug up your ass? the "millions" of mobile and home gaming machine users out there you talk about don't even make up 5% of most web traffic and ie is, what, in the 80-90% range?

    The main difference is that users of alternative internet devices generally don't get to choose their browser, whereas most IE6 users are a few clicks away from running Firefox, Opera, or at least IE7.

    I agree with the GP; it's better to assist the disabled than the lazy.

    Of course, if you're running a commercial site and hits = money, priorities change. But I'd still rather offer IE6 users a reduced-functionality version of the site (with clear instructions on how to update/replace their browser) than waste tons of time and effort on a "No Browser Left Behind" policy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 31, 2007 @02:04AM (#19333241)
    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 are we reinventing the wheel with YET ANOTHER FRAMEWORK! There have been protocols for sharing/syncing documents on the web for many years but no one uses them. We're actually talking about redesigning every application in existence from scratch to work with the new framework. We've already got office suites such as OpenOffice and MSOffice. What is more logical: rewriting these programs from scratch, or doing some relatively minor modifications so that they work with a new file storage method (in this case, sqlite databases?).

    I really don't understand what this framework is introducing to the world. It seems like a slow, bloated and broken way of reinventing something we've been doing for the last 20 years. Can someone please sell this to me (minus the jargon)?
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @02:09AM (#19333265) Homepage

    This is sad. As a programming language, Javascript makes Visual Basic look good.

    The wierd thing is that we went through all this with Java almost a decade ago. "Gears" is supposed to do roughly the same things Java was originally supposed to do.

    Java went in a strange direction. "Applets" in the browser were never very popular. Java desktop applications were not widely successful, although a whole office suite was written in Java. Java ended up being the replacement for COBOL; it's what runs the business logic on the server.

    The real innovation in Gears is providing a local database, instead of files, as the basic storage medium. That's not new in the Microsoft world (many apps use Jet, Microsoft's little database), but the open source world is still mostly in the flat file era for local storage. SQLite gets you locking, atomic transactions, structured data, and search capability. And you can get at those files via SQL; you don't have to access them through Gears and JavaScript. We may see bindings to the Gears back end for other languages. The middleware portion of this may be more important than the browser-based user interface.

    Incidentally, no one seems to have mentioned that Google has launched a replacement for SourceForge [].

  • by misleb ( 129952 ) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @02:24AM (#19333351)

    Because it is slow.

    Compiled Java bytecode is a speed deamon compared to JavaSCRIPT.

  • pseudo-standards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nanosquid ( 1074949 ) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @04:40AM (#19334021)
    Though still only a psuedo-standard. (Boo!) :-)

    What you call a "pseudo standard" is how good standards are created: first you use and document a technology, then, after several years of practical use, you go to a standards body.

    Unfortunately, these days, a "standard" seems to mean to many people a rubber stamping of some idea that some committee or engineers cooked up, with little or no practical usage. W3C is guilty of that, and ECMA even more so.
  • by bberens ( 965711 ) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @08:05AM (#19335149)
    It appears obvious to me, though I've been wrong plenty of times before, that this is another part of the puzzle for Google Docs. Once they've 'perfected' the system you won't have to worry about your link being up to be able to get to your docs. The next step is an intranet version for the enterprise. All in good time...
  • by Doctor Crumb ( 737936 ) on Thursday May 31, 2007 @09:15AM (#19335919) Homepage
    Why yes, javascript is slow. But it's moe than fast enough for web apps, which tend not to require massive computation or even all that much UI candy. The vast majority of the rendering/UI/storage work is done by the browser (very fast machine-specific application) and the webserver (high-powered multi-core server farm), which means that javascript is free to chug away at whatever tasks it is given.

    If google released their apps as bytecode-compiled java, they would *lose* actual CPU performance in order to overcome some amount of network latency (which is the big slowdown for most web apps). By making it so the app will still work without a network connection, they are overcoming that latency without having to add update complexity or sacrifice cross-platform compatibility (java environments are neither universal nor consistent). Write-one run-anywhere is far more true of web apps than it ever has been of java.
  • Re:a point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Thursday May 31, 2007 @05:23PM (#19344145) Journal
    I suppose it might be about me, and not some general hypothetical case. Then again, it might not be.

    It doesn't matter.

    I wouldn't hire you to mop the floors, let alone work on computers. You've demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the most rudimentary project specifications and clear-cut business decisions. You insist that the company must change to better fit the available calender products, instead of the calender products changing to fit the company.

    You are an imbecile.

    Hope this helps.

  • by LKM ( 227954 ) on Friday June 01, 2007 @03:18AM (#19348615) Homepage
    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 on his Wii?

    That's where the thin client comes in: If we store our data on one computer and use the other computers we have to access the data on that computer, we have solved this synchronization issue. The disadvantage is that now we need internet access to do all the things we used to do offline, which is where Gears (and many other recent "offline techs") come in.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.