Google's Gears Gains Ground

Google's open-source development tool is seeing adoption grow.

SAN FRANCISCO-One of Google's primary goals is to advance the capabilities of the browser and the company has done so with its Gears offline-application-enabling technology.

Advancing the browser also means adoption by key players. At the Google I/O conference here May 28, Allen Hurff, vice president of engineering at social networking player MySpace, said MySpace is using Gears to make its site and products easier to use.

"It gives you full text capability and a SQL database on the client machine" for local storage, Hurff said.

"Today, MySpace is launching enhanced functionality for MySpace mail using Gears," Chris Prince, a Google software engineer, said in a May 28 blog post. "They are using the original Gears Database API with Full Text Search to enable fast and easy search and sort capabilities."

Prince also said the latest build of WordPress also integrates Gears "to improve performance, and to let users manage their blogs offline. And as many of you know, the Google Docs team added offline capabilities just a few weeks ago."

Google Gears is an open-source browser extension that lets developers create Web applications that can run offline. Google introduced Google Gears at its Google Developer Day last year. However, as of May 28, the company has officially changed the name of the technology from Google Gears to just Gears, Prince said.

Moreover, "we want Gears to be available to everyone, regardless of platform or browser," he said. "To that end, we are currently adding Firefox 3 and Safari support. And Opera is working to support Gears on both desktop and mobile. These new platforms will nicely complement our current set: Internet Explorer and Firefox, across Windows, Mac, Linux, and even Windows Mobile."

Meanwhile, David Glazer, engineering director for Google's OpenSocial platform, said AOL will support OpenSocial. OpenSocial is a set of common APIs for Web-based social network applications.

"We want to move the Web forward by making the Web more social," said Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google.

At a Google I/O session entitled "Meet the Containers," AOL announced plans to support OpenSocial "beginning with the adoption of Gadgets on," said Eric Staats, a principal software engineer at AOL, in a May 28 blog post. "Over the next few months, we will implement the Gadget specification on myAOL, and eventually we will support OpenSocial across our products and platforms.

"By using this single widget application framework, AOL will take a significant step toward becoming a more open service, making it easier for developers to leverage our APIs to enhance AOL products and services with creative new applications, and ultimately leading to a better experience for millions of users," Staats said.