Online – to be or not to be?

Google Gears is a browser extension providing the very core services needed to create offline web applications.

Many times we had to provide both – a web and a rich client solution for a given problem. The rich client was often needed to provide offline usage, that’s not needed anymore. And this is why we need offline web applications: to allow users to keep up entering data and using parts of the web application without beeing online. To make this possible we need some safe place to store information and means to run jobs asynchronously – this is were Google Gears jumps in.

There are three modules being provided: database, localserver and workerpool. This way a web application can store resources (html, css, images) locally, store data locally and run tasks in the background. The cool thing is the Javascript API provided, so everything can be used directly, cross platform.

But not every developer wants to code things like synchronization and persistence in Javascript – to make a web application go offline using Google Gears means lots of coding and lots of thinking. Regarding the thinking part there is some help from Google: there is some architectural thoughts on Google Gears homepage, helping developers and software architects to quick start into the new possibilities.

The question is: is it going to be accepted by the community? Well, it looks like. There are already some cool web applications using gears (please have a look at http://rememberthemilk.com). And other toolkits are going to provide Google Gears support, among them Dojo and GWT.

There is a video in Youtube from the Google Developer Days. GWT and Dojo developers speaking about how the plan to integrate Google Gears into their own toolkit. Dojo Offline – recently published as beta – is throwing its own client runtime away and porting its API to use Google Gears, still providing an interesting persistence framework, some online and offline widget UI and a synchronisation API . All ontop of Google Gears. The video below shows some of the quite impressive features of Dojo offline.

GWT will provide a library supporting Google Gears directly, so in future we won’t have to write offline code stuff in Javascript: GWT will give us all as Java API.

The Youtube video can be viewed directly here:

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