Online Applications Go Offline with Google Gears Beta

The newest buzz is all about the new Google Gears Beta.

As I was talking about in a recent article about JavaFX, the big challenge for the moment has been making web applications viewable off-line, but not in the way that JavaFX wants to. The ideal method is to have applications designed to function solely online, with the extra capability of functioning offline. Not to design desktop apps that can also go online but are dependent on desktop software to run online. It’s a slight difference in wording, but a huge difference in technical methods and implementation.

Google has just taken another huge step above and beyond what everyone else is doing. While this should not be a surprise for any of the Google fans out there, that they have managed to make this step so quickly (and in the way it should be done) is still impressive.

They’ve gone and released their Google Gears Beta, which is a toolkit that allows users to download internet applications for off-line use. In fact, they also provide a working example of what can be done with Gears by releasing a Gears compatible version of their Google reader.

Google Reader Offline Beta

In order to use online applications off-line, users will need to download the Gears package (which is a 700k install). According to their site:

Google Gears works on the following browsers:

  • Apple Mac OS X (10.2 or higher)
    • Firefox 1.5 or higher
  • Linux
    • Firefox 1.5 or higher
  • Microsoft Windows (XP or higher)
    • Firefox 1.5 or higher
    • Internet Explorer 6 or higher

Additionally, the team is working on supporting Safari on Mac OS X in a future release.

Obviously in order for an internet application to be usable by Gears, the application owner will have to integrate compatibility with the toolkit. Thankfully, the way this is done with Gears those apps can simply have this off-line ability added on. Gears also should work with the new frameworks like Adobe Apollo, Flash and Silverlight.

You can read other news about Google Gears around the web as we continue to learn more about this new toolkit, or just head over to the Gears API site and peek around.