Google brings developers offline with “Gears”; new offline Reader

Right now in Sydney, Australia, the first of 10 Google Developer days are starting up and the audience there is hearing about several new initiatives. The most important of which is “Google Gears,” an open source project that will bring offline capabilities to Web Applications — aimed at developers. More on that in a second.

Also being announced today (and tomorrow here in San Jose) at Google’s Developer Day:

1. A new version of Google Reader (shipping this afternoon) that is built with Gears that will enable that reader to work offline. To make use of the new offline capabilities you’ll need to load the Google Gears plugin first (also available now).
2. A new mashup editor that is aimed at developers familiar with HTML and JavaScript. The Google Mashup Editor offers a simpler way to deploy AJAX user interface components atop existing feeds and Google Web Services. This competes pretty headon with Microsoft’s PopFly that was shipped about a week ago. Unfortunately this is going to be a limited beta, so you’ll have to sign up for it and wait.
3. Google Web Toolkit has passed a million users and they just shipped a new version of that.

Regarding Gears. It works on Macs, Windows, Linux on IE, Firefox, Opera. Enables versioned offline storage. Extension to HTML/JavaScript. UPDATE: Opera support isn’t finished yet and Safari support is coming “later.”

They are showing me a demo of the new Google Reader using the new Gears plugin. After you load the Gears plugin you get a new icon at the top of your Reader window which enables offline capabilities of Google Reader. They showed how Google Reader then downloaded 2,000 feed items. They took the browser offline and it continued to work great.

Codename of Gears was “Scour.” The team made fun of their code name saying that the world had “Ajax” and now it needed to “Scour.”

Gears is a 700kb install. Gears consists of three modules that developers can talk to via an API (details will online at the gears.google.com site). The three modules consist of:

1. A Local server. An object that your app can talk to and get stuff (images, JS files, HTML, etc). Atomic updates.
2. A data store. SQL light. You can talk to that via SQL. It’s like a cookie on steroids that you can talk to via SQL so developers can store data offline and talk to that store.
3. A worker pool that’s designed for background tasks. Keeps track of offline and online and helps sync and keep your apps “snappy” no matter what state your connection is in.
What won’t Gears be good for? Something like Google Search. Why? Because that assumes you want to search all the items on the Web. It’s better for Web developers who are building apps that have a specific amount of data to interact with.

Gears supports using Adobe’s Apollo and Flash and should support other technologies including Microsoft’s Silverlight.

Gears will be submitted to a standards organization eventually, they said, but want to make sure the technology is rock solid first.

More on this from TechCrunch’s Nick Gonzalez, and from Artur Bergman on O’Reilly’s Radar site who are sitting a few feet from me.

The detail in this post came from Google’s Vice President of Engineering, Jeff Huber, among other people from Google in the room — I’ll try to get more names shortly.

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