Google Gears

Google Gears logoSince Google announced this yesterday, everybody and their mother has covered this. It’s not hard to see why – I rely on Gmail, Google Calendar, Remember The Milk, and Google Reader as my main four web sites, and all of them are useless to me unless I am online. Google Gears aims to change that, and they’ve started with Google Reader as their proof-of-concept.

Since I’m not in Google’s inner circle and I’m not even a developer, I will stick to pointing to others’ comments and observations.

I have over 300 feeds subscriptions at Google Reader, and I think of myself as accustomed to the deluge of posts that come out of that, but last night’s explosion of news over Gears was uncommon, and speaks to how much anticipation there is among web users to be able to take their productivity apps and carry them around even when they cannot connect to the cloud. The first headline on the topic was, in terms of when Google Reader displayed it to me, the New York Times story by Miguel Helft, “Moving Web-Based Software Offline”. I only mention that because it speaks to the power of the mainstream media to have this story ready and in the can, just waiting for the embargo to lift so it could hit the web.

Once the announcement was made and the embargo lifted, the posts flooded in – Business Week, ZDNet, the Financial Times, Robert Scoble (1, 2, 3), Tech Crunch, O’Reilly, and Michael Gartenberg. I enjoy this last blog a lot – he clearly loves what he does and he discusses things he sees confidentially without being too smug about them. I was surprised about the wet blanket he had to throw on Gears with his first post – citing the limited functionality of Google Docs. The second post makes more sense – he tried to install Gears and it didn’t work, forcing him into System Recovery. The horror.

I’ve posted twice before about various frustrations I’ve had with Google Reader – the inability to undo a “Mark All As Read” (which is a total boobytrap) and the fact that unread articles time out after some unidentified time period – so it’s only fair that I sing the praises of the Google Reader team for working with their Gears counterparts. Offline functionality is a huge step forward, and I’m sure your users are all rejoicing at this turn of events.

Sorry for a post that’s long on pointers and short on analysis – I am excited by Gears, thrilled that Google is opensourcing it, and hope it’s a real game changer for a lot of web apps out there.

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