Google Goes Offline (In A Good Way)

Today has been an extremely busy day in the tech world. Let’s do a quick recap:
Crazy, and that’s not everything. By far the coolest, most interesting development of the day is the release of Google Gears (great writeup here on ZDNet).

What is Gears? Basically it is a solution to the “But online-only apps can’t be the future because what if you lose connection - then you lose everything!” problem. It is a tiny little bit of code you install (open source, and they’re trying to make it the de-facto standard, even to the point of being built in to all web browsers automatically) that allows online applications to function even when your connection disappears (using bits of Javascript, mostly).

The “proof-of-concept” application that Google has released into the wild is none other than the life-changing Google Reader, and it helps illustrate the possibilities pretty well. Download Gears, login to Reader, and you’re asked if you want to move offline. Google automatically downloads 2000 of your recent items to your computer, for viewing anytime, anywhere. Mark an item as shared, or starred, or just read a ton - and the next time you’re online, everything gets synced. The best part is Google Reader now has the one thing that desktop readers excelled at exclusively: speed. No more waiting for the next 20 feeds when you reach the bottom of the ones that have loaded. Super fast.

Now take this idea and apply it to, oh, Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Ooh, now Microsoft better watch out. Especially since another of their arch-nemeses is online (offline?) with Google: Adobe. Yeah, that’s right - the guys behind super-successful, super-ubiquitous Flash, and the recently introduced desktop enhancing Apollo.

And to all the GMail naysayers - in no time I’m sure that this wonderful email client will be the poster child for straddling the on- and off-line worlds.

I can’t wait to see what other companies do with this - how it affects video, photo-sharing, calendars, social networks, etc.

We’re moving towards connectivity 100% of the time, but that’s a long way away (even for city dwellers like me). What Google Gears does, however, is introduce the idea that it doesn’t really matter if we’re connected or not at any given time. The data will be with us constantly - ours, and safe where we can access it even when the power is out - and yet it will sync across multiple machines and devices whenever we’re online, utilizing the resources of the web and allowing collaboration and communication with others all over the world. It’s not one or the other - it’s both.

Hmm. What about Amazon? I wonder - they seem awfully quiet the last few days. What are they brewing?

More on Google Gears here.