Gears adopters face rough transition as Google goes HTML5

Google logoGoogle has announced that it plans to discontinue active development of Gears, a browser plug-in that enables Web features like local storage and geolocation services. The search giant says that emerging Web standards offer increasingly viable alternatives to the specific capabilities that are provided by Gears.

Rather than implementing experimental new Web functionality in a cross-browser plug-in, the Gears team intends to focus on advancing new and existing Web standards that can be included directly in Chrome and adopted by other browser vendors. This approach to enhancing the Web is more in line with how the other major browser vendors operate. It makes sense for Google to move in this direction now that the company has a browser of its own.

"If you've wondered why there haven't been many Gears releases or posts on the Gears blog lately, it's because we've shifted our effort towards bringing all of the Gears capabilities into web standards like HTML5," wrote Gears team member Ian Fette on the official Gears blog. "Gears has helped us deliver much-desired functionality, such as the ability to offer offline access in GMail, to a large number of users. Long term, we expect that as browsers support an increasing amount of this functionality natively and as users upgrade to more capable browsers, applications will make a similar migration."

Although Google will not be adding additional features to Gears, the company says that it will continue to support the plug-in in a reduced capacity. For various technical reasons, it will be discontinued entirely for Safari on Mac OS X. The Firefox and Internet Explorer versions will continue to be supported for the immediate future.

The emphasis on open standards is promising, but the transition will likely be rough for Gears adopters. Third-party Web applications that rely on the functionality provided by Gears will have to start moving towards standards-based solutions that aren't yet fully supported in all browsers.

Some early third-party adopters of the Gears APIs include Zoho, iStockphoto, and Wordpress. In a statement published on Saturday, Zoho's Raju Vegesna responded to Google's decision to discontinue Gears development. Zoho says that it received advanced warning from Google and was already starting to experiment with HTML5-based solutions for offline storage.

"Google team is gracious to inform us about this decision in advance and the intentions behind this move, which we very much respect. At Zoho, we see HTML5 as the future of the web, and we plan to move our apps in this direction," he wrote. "We internally are experimenting with HTML5 and we are excited to see the possibilities."

Google encourages interested parties to contribute to the ongoing discussion about emerging Web technologies on the Chromium HTML5 Google Groups site.

Source: ars technica


Tags: browsers, Google, HTML5, Internet

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