Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Google dropped Gears in favor of HTML5

I'm only writing this since a lot of people have been looking at the fact that Gears might be on it's way out and saying this is because the Gears install base was small, or that it was a failure or that they're just not being evil.

It's actually none of the above, if anything regarding the last reason this is could be considered more evil, even though it's for the good of the web (and they barely pushed the product as is to call it a failure or say that the install base was too small).

The thing is, Gears was always intended to be a sort of alpha test version of HTML5, it was just going to be a project where Google (or someone outside of Google) would add features the web doesn't have yet and over time they'd write these things up as standards and then slowly phase the feature out of Gears in favor of web standards.

Now I'm guessing one of the problems that have arisen with Gears was the phasing out part, being that many developers would just support Gears instead of bothering with HTML5 at all. Leaving a problem where browsers like Internet Explorer 6 would keep it's market share being that major HTML5 features are just being brought over to it.

And then here's the questionably evil part (it's not really evil but it is a very competitive move), the thing is the most recent WebKit builds support almost every HTML5 equivalent of every Gears feature (Web workers, local storage, offline database, application caching, geolocation... only missing features are complete Drag and Drop support, Binary data, and desktop shortcuts which isn't in HTML5) so at some point Chrome will have these features without the need of Gears.

Now Google can't guarantee that every browser will support these features, but they can guarantee that their own browser does. So in the event that a Google site may require an HTML5 feature and is not being viewed in a compatible browser, it may suggest installing Google Chrome, giving Google more market share and the ability to guarantee that their users get the browsing experience that Google wants them to have, forcing other browser vendors to adapt to new specs quickly else they risk loosing market share or being Chrome framed (this could also be tied to the many corporations that have been going Google lately).

Now Google isn't your 90s computer company, they don't want to control the playing field, really they just want everyone to play their best since that is to Googles advantage (more potential advertising money). This is why Chrome was made in the first place (think about the fact that Safari 4 and Firefox 3.5 have made huge jumps in speed compared to their predecessors).

So I got bored and made this

Acrylic Style iGoogle Gadget

Add it to iGoogle: Add to iGoogle

So far it works in iGoogle, Gmail, Google Calendar, Wave (though all it does in Wave is embed an iframe of the Acrylic Style site), I haven't tested it in anything else yet (my main goal is to have it running in every OpenSocial/Google Gadget container).

Oh and for IE8 users, there's a webslice on the site that displays this gadget also.