Google Gears: next quantum leap after XMLHttpRequest

Not much of great consequence has happened on the javascript, BOM and DOM in recent years since XMLHttpRequest and DOM 1.0. The large proprietary software people (Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Sun) have all recently tried deploying new lock-in schemes of their own targeting the web to attract web developers into their proprietary, closed-source shackles under various flavours of EULAs and/or restrictions management, all of which will hopefully fail.

Brad Neuberg recently gave an Inventing the Future keynote speech at Yahoo FrontEnd Summit 2007, relating (among many things) that the secret to shaping the future is to be an inventive leader, in turn accomplished by combining leadership, great inventions and good values. There is much truth in that. I would personally add "working in the open" to the list.

This is exactly what Google is presently doing with Gears, which Aaron Boodman presented today (via) at Google Developer Day Sydney:

Google Gears is the next quantum leap in web development since XMLHttpRequest, addressing three of the largest issues with javascript webside development:

  • the lack of large scale (gigabyte range) client side storage,
  • offline availability of online resources, and
  • client side javascript freezing up the browser user interface due to its single-threaded design.
All this, in order to tackle the offline problem, which Brad Neuberg had incidentally been working with in the open for some time already for the Dojo Storage and Offline modules. Gears solves all rather beautifully with these three related but separate modules:

caches and serves resources (HTML, javascript, images, et c.) locally,
stores data locally in a fully-searchable (SQLite) relational database
makes web applications more responsive by performing resource-intensive operations concurrently and asynchronously

I really recommend watching the half-an-hour presentation for the full story. Gears is already available for Firefox and Internet Explorer, soon for Safari, and, being fully new BSD licensed, allows anyone to port it to any other browser environment too. This is how you evolve the web. It is hardly coincidental that Aaron Boodman, who gave us Greasemonkey (licensed just as liberally) has been on the Gears team and gave the presentation.
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