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Home » Articles » Hello HTML 5, Goodbye Gears

Hello HTML 5, Goodbye Gears

Article Posted On Date : Monday, April 5, 2010

Hello HTML 5, Goodbye Gears

The promise of HTML 5 brings with it widespread ramifications. Not the least of these is its effect on Google products. If you use Google Gears, and especially if you're thinking about using Google's new Chrome OS when it comes out, you need to keep reading.

Back in 2007, Google released Gears -a free, open source software that according to Google "enables more powerful web applications by adding new features to your web browser." The software, which is still being used today, has quite a few components.

These components include a database module capable of storing data locally; a WorkerPool module that provides parallel execution of JavaScript code; a LocalServer module that caches and serves application resources such as HTML, images, and JavaScript, among other things; a desktop module that enables web applications to interact more naturally with the desktop; and lastly, a geo-location module that enables web applications to detect the geographical location of their users. Basically, once a user downloads Gears on to their computer they can utilize helpful features such as offline e-mail caching and drag-and-drop file uploading.

As mentioned previously, the software was released in 2007. Though three years isn't a very long time for a majority of us, it's ages in the technology world.

Perhaps that's why there have been recent rumblings in the blogosphere that Google already plans to ditch Gears and instead, migrate towards using HTML5, which is the latest revision of the standard programming language (HTML) that powers the Internet. Whether or not this is true is still unknown, but there's a lot to discuss when it comes to Google's Chrome Operating System and the possibility of the tech giant utilizing HTML 5.

Before discussing how HTML 5 has the power to change the web and Google's important relationship to it, it's crucial to understand the role that Google's Chrome operating system has in all of this.

Basically, Google Chrome is an open source operating system created to work exclusively with web applications. Though it was announced just this past summer and is currently being used by a very select few, Chrome OS won't be released publicly until mid 2010.

According to Google, the new operating system is based on Linux and will run only on specific hardware. Also, the user interface is said to be very minimalist, greatly resembling the already-existing Chrome web browser. The Chrome browser will be the only application used, which is why the Google Chrome OS is aimed at users who spend a majority of their computer time online.

The main difference between the new Chrome and other operating systems is that applications and other materials that have always existed on on hard drives will now "live online." The reason so many believe that Google is dropping Gears is because many of the features found in Gears are now being adopted by HTML 5, but it's also being built into the Chrome browser. Until an official announcement has been made, however, Gears continues to feature a number of tools capable of being opened using Firefox and Internet Explorer.

The first beta version of Chrome has been released for Macs, and around the time of that release, a Google spokesperson made some confusing remarks about the future of Gears, especially considering that HTML 5 isn't quite ready to be used yet and that most browsers aren't yet equipped to support it.

"We are excited that much of the technology in Gears, including offline support and geo-location APIs, are being incorporated into the HTML 5 spec as an open standard supported across browsers, and see that as the logical next step for developers looking to include these features in their websites," the spokesperson said. Shortly after, when speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the same spokesperson clarified by saying, "We're continuing to support Gears so that nothing breaks for sites that use it, but we expect developers to use HTML 5 for these features moving forward as it's a standards-based approach that will be available across all browsers."

It seems that Google isn't ready to drop Gears quite yet, but it definitely appears to be moving that way, as HTML 5 is obviously the future of programming. It would actually make more sense to drop the software, especially since it's not compatible with some of the most current software.

For example, it isn't compatible with Snow Leopard, which is the most recent version of the Mac operating system. According to Google representatives, however, the incompatibility comes from "a problem with the new system, not with lazy development."

The development of the Snow Leopard OS basically forced Google to focus on HTML 5 and include it in their Chrome OS. Everything's a competition, and there was no way that Google was going to make it any easier for Apple.

Gears wouldn't have worked on new Apple computers, but HTML 5 will obviously be ready to go in Mac browsers before the final draft of the programming language is even completed. Thus, it makes sense to use HTML 5 for the new Chrome OS and not Gears, which is barely three years old and apparently already behind the times.

Whether or not Google's Chrome operating system will be successful greatly depends on just how useful the average user finds the OS to be, not forgetting that the OS won't be using a majority of the software that's commonly used now. Just to help things along, Google recently announced that they're already making the operating system's computer code public so that outside developers can begin making apps for it.

No matter how strange it seems at first, though, chances are users will be drawn in by Chrome's biggest advantage: its speed. At a recent demonstration of the new OS by Google's product manager Sundar Pichai, the entire online system was capable of showing up on a computer screen less than 10 seconds after the computer rebooted.

One of the biggest goals of HTML 5 is to reduce the need for plug-in-based, rich Internet applications, such as Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Sun JavaFX. This latest programming language will also introduce programmers to never before seen or used elements and attributes that will take average websites to the next level, making them appear more modern and enabling them to work more efficiently.

Most of these specific programming changes won't be noticed by the general public, but they will definitely affect the way programmers write code. For example, there are many new semantic replacements for generic block and inline elements, while other new features focus more on providing better functionality through a more standardized interface. Some elements from HTML4 have been dropped, including presentational elements. This is because the same effects can be achieved using CSS.

Data "In the Cloud"

Windows and other modern operating systems have many applications, which is what sets Google's Chrome OS apart; it only has one application, which is its web browser. Essentially there are none of the things to which we've become accustomed--no word processor or email programs. All of the apps featured on the new OS are web-based, and both run and save all of your data "in the cloud."

Running and saving data in the cloud is also known as cloud computing, which is a fairly new trend in terms of software development. Usually, more standard apps can take months to develop, and major upgrades are known to take at least a year to be released. On the other hand when web apps live in the cloud, developers can create software updates almost instantly.

Working with apps in the cloud isn't just beneficial and time saving to developers; it's also incredibly beneficial to those using the applications. As a user, you can access the latest bug fixes and start working with new features immediately, without the hassle of having to download and install large updates. Also, because this data is in the cloud as well, you can access it anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet.

This concept may sound very new, but chances are the average user has already encountered a web app living in the cloud and they didn't even know it. This is especially true for Google and social networking fans; both Gmail and Facebook are web apps that are downloaded from the web and run on a user's browser, meaning their data is saved on the Internet or in the cloud.

It becomes more and more apparent that the Internet is similar to a living thing; it grows and adapts every day. As this happens, companies like Google and their new Chrome OS use both new and old concepts alike and take them to the next level. Essentially, Google Chrome leverages the new-found power of HTML 5 and gives applications direct access to a local database, and file caching, among other things.

This may sound like confusing techie talk to some Internet users, but the effects are far-reaching. All of this means that users' favorite websites and applications will not only work faster, but become more compatible with their specific computer. Simply put, because of HTML 5 and Google's Chrome OS, it's a very exciting time for the Internet and the future of the web is looking very bright.

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