On Google Gears, I’m definitely in the skeptical What is this “being at work while offline” of which you speak? camp. I wasn’t convinced when Adam Bosworth was singing this song five years ago and I’m still not. Doesn’t mean having programmable persistence in the browser isn’t a good idea, though. Browsers already cache heavily, of course, but not in a way that’s sensitive to the needs of any particular Ajax code. I mean, consider a mapping app; if the computer knows where I am, why shouldn’t the browser pre-populate the cache with a few hundred local map tiles? They don’t change that much. And so on. Gears at least seems pretty lockin-free.



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From: Kraig (May 31 2007, at 22:18)

Google Reader now can be used offline, with users able to star and tag portions of a feed that will automatically synch back up with the Web version of the Reader when a user connects again. I think it's very useful...

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From: Janne (Jun 01 2007, at 00:30)

I have a daily commute of one hour each way, most of it on a train, and with no internet access. Any online app is utterly unusable during that time. Ditto whenever I fly to Europe and spend a total of 16 hours or so in, or waiting for, transport. And that one hurts more than people perhaps think; you often spend the travel time revising and polishing your talk, but it's hard to do that if your tools aren't available.

Frankly, on-line access is for me a nice extra, but not ever something to primarily rely on, and something to actively avoid for anything sensitive. Google (or Sun) may be the kindest, cuddliest companies around, but I still don't feel happy having data or documents about ongoing applied research posted on servers out of my control, in a foreign jurisdiction one continent over. And as it happens, our work guidelines concur and "strongly advice against it".

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From: Alasdair Allan (Jun 01 2007, at 02:11)

You're thinking far too narrowly here, what about Google Apps? With Reader now having an offline version, we can probably expect an offline version of Apps. This pretty much solves the real problem of an online office suite. This is Google's shot across the bows of Microsoft Office here...

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From: Dave (Jun 01 2007, at 03:14)

This is off on a bit of a tangent, but since you mentioned Google maps and location it reminded me that I've recently wondered how much impact on bandwidth-usage/response-time regarding Google Maps is due to the fact that people in the same Geographical region are more likely to look at the same map tiles? That is, all the people in my country likely look at the big picture view of my country, similarly people in my State, County, City, Town & Street are probably all likely to be looking at those areas, each at greater magnification.

If things are working as they should then caches at these various levels should be working very efficiently. Was this a design decision for Google going REST with the maps or just a happy accident? Does this have implications for anyone building web sites providing local info based on zipcodes, and even more so your example of being mobile and requesting information about where you are at that moment.

If there's some info on this topic out on the web I'd be grateful if anyone could point me towards it.

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From: MilesZS (Jun 01 2007, at 05:40)

I was going to say the same thing as the initial commenter: Google Gears allows Google Reader to be used offline, which, if I'm not mistaken, was one of the few, if not the only, hindrances to its more widespread adoption. On a more personal note, I could catch up on my feeds on the way to or from work (if I'm carpooling, of course), or at the local coffee shop, without worrying about whether they are going to start charging for their 'net service.

Not to mention this is another space in which Google and Microsoft will likely compete heavily, which makes for good entertainment, not to mention possibly great innovation.

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From: Vince Nibler (Jun 01 2007, at 06:18)

Some of us still live in locations without DSL, and spotty internet connections at best. It's would be more than just convenient to be able to shift between on and offline without much effort.

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From: Scott Johnson (Jun 01 2007, at 08:36)

I'm with Kraig, Google Reader offline is, on its own, huge. Well, for somebody like me who spends a good part of my browsing time actually in Google Reader. If I can take 2000 new items on a plane with me, that would be huge. Now if I can just get Gears to install...

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From: Dan Steingart (Jun 01 2007, at 15:10)

Gmail! Calendar! Reader is already go!

Not so much mapping, but when I somewhere disconnected and I need desperately to get a number in an email I just received recently.

In general having seamless client side server integration would rule, and it seems like it might be a possibility.

It is getting harder and harder for me to mask my google crush, clearly.

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From: David Van Couvering (Jun 01 2007, at 15:22)

You should count yourself very lucky indeed if you're always online. Not the case for me as a two-hour-each-way train/bus commuter. And I've noticed that at most conferences (which I know you go to a lot :)), you're lucky to get a good connection because of so many geeks trying to read email and blog up a storm. In the last three years I have yet to go to a conference that has had good, solid WiFi. And don't get me started about hotels.

But more importantly, "always-on-the-net" is so not the case for many many people on the globe. They either have an intermittent connection, a poor connection, or no connection.

When I was doing some computer service in a village near Mumbai, they had a local Exchange server connecting/reconnecting/reconnecting all night with the Internet trying to send/receive a drip-drip-drip of a message or two before losing the connection again.

That was before a rat bit through the phone cable somewhere, and we had to take the server on a rickshaw once a day down to the next village to synch up the emails.

On a lucky tram-to-airport ride in Portland with Tim O'Reilly a few years ago, Tim told me of a similar "moto-mail" in South America, where a motorcycle with a server on it would tootle around to each village, people would run up with their computers and "synch" with the moto-server, and then once he got back to the city he'd do a massive send/receive. I bet those villagers wouldn't mind a little offline support for Google Reader and GMail...

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From: Doug k (Jun 01 2007, at 15:54)

last month sometime, BT had cable problems in a fibreoptic that went under a river on Indian land, somewhere in Canada. Because of the Indian land, they had trouble getting access to fix it - at least that's the story we got. As a result our office in Colorado had no connectivity for two days, we had to hike to Starbucks to get our email. I can see being offline at work ;-)

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From: Seth A. Roby (Jun 01 2007, at 18:24)

I work at a probation department, which means that there's a whole lot of paperwork and a ton of time that the officers, who need to fill said paperwork out, are not sitting at a desk with a connection. The app we're currently programming will be used over < href='http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/mobileoptions/nationalaccess/index.jsp'>Verizon's Wireless Internet Service</a>, but even the biggest network doesn't have coverage <em>everywhere</em>, so being able to work offline will be a huge boon. We're currently looking at Gears rather attentively.

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From: Robert Sayre (Jun 02 2007, at 19:45)

I think the most important aspect of offline capability is that it can prevent user data loss.

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From: Julien Couvreur (Jun 04 2007, at 08:43)

Do users need or value offline support in web applications?

We can continue to argue this ad-nauseum.

But by implementing offline in one application, Google gets to instrument that app and gather data to measure offline usage, so that it can decide whether offline makes sense for other applications.

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From: Bill de hOra (Jun 04 2007, at 09:30)

1: The network is not reliable.

2: State belongs to the client.

That said, I'm less interested in the offline storage capability than the query capability. People have been talking up client databases for years now (cf embedded Apache Derby), but it seems more compelling from within a browser than Eclipse or a Swing app.

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From: Henri Sivonen (Jun 05 2007, at 01:41)

“Gears at least seems pretty lockin-free.”

Hopefully Google Gears gets harmonized with HTML 5 permitting interoperable and independent native implementations in browser engines. There is already a draft SQL (de facto SQLite) storage API in HTML 5.

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From: Bryan (Jun 08 2007, at 04:44)

I don't much like me too commments. But ... ME TOO: I spend a lot of time on planes and trains. I depend on my offline computing existence to maintain half of my technical and blogging contributions. The easier it is for that to be seamless, the better. Up to now I have had NO incentive to look at these products. Now I do.

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From: Tech Guy (Jun 12 2007, at 12:44)

For me, Gears has allowed me to catch up on my reading without being distracted all the time. Consider, how many times you read a partial feed, go to the site to finish the article, only to find yourself clicking around. The one feature I wish Gears had is to fetch and download the full article content of sites that only publish partial feeds.

-Mike

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