There’s broad recognition that the Google Gears announcement is one of high impact, but I haven’t seen anyone getting close to just how big. Yes, working offline is important, but it’s not new. As Dave Winer points out, the Radio blogging system was doing it in 2001. It actually goes back further than that as I’ll show shortly, but what is new is that Google Gears builds on open standards and has potential to become a very widely adopted standard itself – they’ve already got Adobe as a partner:
Adobe chief software architect Kevin Lynch says his company is happy to be working with Google to create “a standard cross-platform, cross-browser local storage capability.”
The idea that a Google Gears standard could make cookies obsolete is a big deal too, but none of the above even begin to scratch the surface of what it will mean to have a standardized database server running on hundreds of millions of machines – that is key to answering the $64Billion Dollar Question about how the meshverse will grow to support tens of millions of simultaneously collaborating participants. Google Gears will eventually make a dramatic change in the economics of the web – probably in ways Google may not have really anticipated.
I started developing browser based virtual world applications back in 1995 while creating websites for Warner Bros. Records. 10 years ago(actually it’s closer to 9 years and 50 weeks), I showed Dave Winer an offline browser based application environment I’d developed that used the local file system for storage but needed a local database along the lines of his Frontier environment. He really got part of the vision:
but web standards had not yet been released and key elements of what’s now known as AJAX were just emerging or didn’t exist at all so it was impossible to approach the desktop UI experience. So we never got the two working together. I’ve written about this period elsewhere – see AJAX and the New Web: Back To The Future Again.
In his Desktop Websites story, Winer captured a key idea:
By moving most of the work to the edges, our servers only make introductions, they’re not doing the heavy lifting they’re asked to do in the Dot-com model.
All modern PC’s can run webservers, but what Google Gears adds is a database and UI that will not only empower individual applications, but enable organizations of all sizes and even individuals to collaborate in grids that rival and surpass the size of Google’s. These emerging peer-to-peer grids won’t have the raw power of Google itself, but will be able to do things Google can’t. Now that the genie is out of the bottle people will look to deploy other database servers locally – Frontier and Web Crossing come to mind. No matter where you are or what time you’re reading this, you can think of a significant number of machines with lots of storage and bandwidth that are sitting idle. Imagine Google Gears solutions running on these machines which will safely collaborate with other peers as well as the web including grids running on Amazon, Sun, or IBM. Can you see the dots connecting the Power of the Peers now?