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Google digs 6-foot hole for Gears

It's all about HTML5 now, darlink

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Google wonks have ended development of the company's Gears application platform, less than three years since its release.

The Gears API had been created by Mountain View as something of an elixir for developers who wanted to support offline access of their apps.

However, Google's allegiance has now shifted to the HTML5 API that the ad broker recently added support for in Chrome, thereby providing local database storage for web browsers. All of which has made the Gears platform effectively redundant.

"In January we shipped a new version of Google Chrome that natively supports a Database API similar to the Gears database API, workers (both local and shared, equivalent to workers and cross-origin wokers in Gears), and also new APIs like Local Storage and Web Sockets," said Ian Fette in a Gears blog post late last week.

"Other facets of Gears, such as the LocalServer API and Geolocation, are also represented by similar APIs in new standards and will be included in Google Chrome shortly.

"We realise there is not yet a simple, comprehensive way to take your Gears-enabled application and move it (and your entire userbase) over to a standards-based approach. We will continue to support Gears until such a migration is more feasible, but this support will be necessarily constrained in scope.

"We will not be investing resources in active development of new features."

Fette added that Google was unable to offer Gears support in Safari on Mac OS X Snow Leopard and later versions, but said support would continue for Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Firefox.

He said Gears had done a good job of offering offline access to Gmail, but that burden had now shifted to browsers, which now offer native support.

Synchronicity was clearly a watchword at Google last Friday when it chose to publicly announce it would nullify Gears on the same day that the company finally nabbed On2 Technologies' HTML5 video codecs.

Burying Gears is hardly a surprising move by a uber web-obsessed Google that wants to flatten any desire to develop code that serves up its online empire away from the flashing lights of the internet. At launch in May 2007, many tech writers wet their pants over Gears, but in essence it was Google's lacklustre attempt to take on Microsoft.

The platform required a user to install a browser plugin and then developers needed to write code to support Mountain View's offline effort, but Google never really put any faith in Gears.

Ultimately the search giant's shift over to HTML5 may in fact have been part of a long-term strategy at Mountain View, with the Gears API platform serving simply as a temporary doorstop while the company developed Chrome. ®

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