Gears and Standards

Gears is about more than just offline web applications. For example, we recently added desktop shortcut functionality, and we're working on resumable uploads, a geolocation API, and lots more fun things for the future.

We've received some questions recently about how all this relates to web standards, such as HTML5 and those proposed by the W3C. It seems like some people are afraid Gears will try to compete with the web.

Let us put those fears to rest right now: on the Gears team we loves us some web standards. Some of us were web developers stuck in the crossfire of the browser wars, and we deeply understand standards have played a key role in the productivity and creativity of the web over the past 10 years.

We have no desire to create a parallel platform and compete with the web. Anyway, that would be crazy. The web is an unstoppable force of nature. Competing with it would be like entering a shouting match with the wind: you can't win, and you look pretty silly trying.

Instead, Gears aims to bring emerging web standards to as many devices as possible, as quickly as possible.

Some History

The Gears project started because a group of developers at Google were frustrated by the slow march of web browsers. Competition and standards were producing fantastic results, but it took a long time to get implementations on every browser. In some cases, we still don't have compatible implementations, years after the standards were finalized. Our first project was to implement APIs that would make offline web applications possible.

Currently, the Gears Database and LocalServer modules are not fully compatible with the HTML5 proposals for the same functionality. This is only because those specs were written after Gears was released, and not because of any desire to be different. In fact, we were involved in the design of both HTML5 specs, and we are currently implementing the proposal for database access.

Going Forward

In many ways, Gears is like a browser without any UI. And just like other browsers, Gears will implement existing standards and rally for changes and additions where they seem needed. For example, we recently proposed our geolocation API work to the W3C WebAPI group.

There are three important differences between Gears and other browsers, however:
  1. Improvements to Gears can be used by developers immediately. Gears is available today on Firefox (for Windows, OS X, and Linux), IE, and IE Mobile. Implementations for more browsers and platforms are in progress. Developers no longer have to wait for every browser to implement new web standards before they can use them, they only have to wait for them to be available on Gears.

  2. Most browser vendors have two groups of customers: users and developers. User-facing features typically get more attention than developer-facing APIs, for a variety of reasons. But with Gears, developers are the only customers. We can focus completely on creating the best possible platform for web development.

  3. Gears is an implementation of web standards that lives inside another browser. For example, the HTML5 Database API might be available to developers through both the google.gears object and the traditional window object. This is OK, and in some ways a good thing. Developers will be able to mix and match the pieces of Gears and native browser implementations that work best.

The Pitch

By implementing emerging web standards, Gears is influencing what the web of tomorrow will look and act like. And since Gears is an open source project, anyone can contribute.

Get involved. You don't have to be able to code in C++. All that's needed is some free time and the desire to push the web forward.