Google Gears is aiming to change the online landscape, and there’s a good chance that it will. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a browser extension that primarily allows web application to work offline. If you use Google Docs, for example, Google Gears will create a database on your hard drive where it store your files, and these will always be synched with the Google Docs database when you go online. For people on the go who sometimes find themselves without an Internet access station, this add-on is heaven-sent.
Recently, it just added a candle on its cake, and to mark its first birthday, they dropped the Google branding and changed the name to simply “Gears”. It’s their way of showing that this isn’t just the search giant’s project, but more of an open community development to push the web’s boundaries. Aside from allowing web apps to run offline, Gears will be focusing on creating new functionalities for browsers. It’s really a very clever move. Instead of developing a new “Google Browser” from scratch, they are leveraging existing ones that already have high market penetration by offering a plugin that extend their capabilities.
Over the past few days, there have been a lot of announcements about Gears, the biggest of which is MySpace’s adoption of Gears for their users’ mail. Aside from having access to it offline which makes retrieval much faster, it now has added search and sort functions. From the point of view of MySpace, one of the great things about it is that it lessens the computational load on their servers, now that data access is a local chore for the user’s computer. Let’s hope they put that newfound server breathing room to good use.
Another third party application supporting Gears is WordPress in version 2.6. Now you can manage your blog offline, and faster. Your workflow will no longer be affected (too much) by the bane called “slow Internet connection”. A caveat: Don’t use Gears if you’re using a public computer as this might lead to potential privacy and security issues.
As for support, Gears is reaching for the stars. Development for Firefox 3 compatibility is ongoing, and it already supports Firefox 1.5 up to the latest version 2 release, as well as Internet Explorer. Mac users will also be enjoying Safari support, and Opera is onboard as well. Currently, Gears can run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Windows Mobile platforms.
You can install the Gears add-on from http://gears.google.com/.