at Google's Chrome event, the company demonstrated a new feature in Google Docs: offline support. Actually, the functionality itself isn't new - Google Docs had offline support in the past, until it was removed in April of this year. What makes this feature new is the underlying technology enabling its return: HTML5.Yesterday
With Google Chrome OS, the Internet search giant's first attempt at a desktop-focused operating system, everything takes place online. Or, as Google put it yesterday: Chrome OS is "Nothing but the Web."
Of course, even with the always-on 3G connection provided by Chrome OS partner Verizon Wireless, there are still places where the Web disconnects. Some airplanes, for example, don't offer Wi-Fi, plus signals go weak or disappear in underground subway tunnels, inside well-fortified structures, in areas of mountainous terrain, and, yes, even Verizon doesn't have perfect coverage everywhere.
But with offline support, a dropped signal doesn't mean lost data. In previous months, Google Docs users could "go offline" with the click of a button, thanks to a Web browser plugin provided by Google called "Google Gears."
Google Gears Disappearing: That Wasn't "Temporary," Google
Gears, however, was meant to be a stop-gap solution until Web technologies caught up with what Google wanted to provide: built-in offline support, no plugin needed.
In April, Google announced it was pulling Google Gears out of Google Docs, but that the removal was only "temporary." As it turned out, "temporary" was a completely inaccurate way to describe the timeframe between the two solutions. Here it is, eight months later, and we're just now hearing about Gears' replacement, offline support courtesy of HTML5. What's worse, that replacement isn't launching until next year. "Early 2011," says Google's official blog post on the matter. Hardly temporary.
We wonder why Google didn't wait until its HTML5 solution wasn't a bit closer to launch before removing the offline functionality so many Docs users relied on. Were they worried about being seen as trying to compete with the forthcoming Web standard? Maybe.
In any event, we're glad offline support is making a return, especially in a standards-based format, even if it took a year to get here.
Oh and Google, could you do Gmail, Google Reader and Calendar, too? Thanks.