September 15, 2008

Google Grinds Out Gears for Safari

I'm still waiting for the day when every Web site and Web application behaves the same, intended, way on every Web browser and operating system. But despite it being more than 15 years since the launch of NCSA Mosaic, and 13 years since the introduction of Java, we're still not there. As a result, just like application developers often have to make the choice to code for Macintosh or Windows, we're seeing Web utilities make their way to Internet Explorer and Firefox before they get to Safari, despite the Mac's recent growth trajectory. Today, one of the laggards, Google Gears, released tools for the Safari browser, 16 months after debuting for other browsers.

At the time of Gears' launch in May of 2007, I frustratingly dismissed it as "Another Utility That Won't Work With Safari". Considering I've managed to go more than a year without Gears on Safari, to be honest, I almost forgot why I would want it in the first place. There's something about being a Mac/Safari user that makes us more hard-headed than the average Web consumer, and I'd already pretty much reached the point where I didn't remember what I could possibly be missing out on.

But with that said, today's announcement on the Google Mac Blog enables us to gain the full functionality of Gears-enabled sites, like Zoho, WordPress and Google Docs offline, in what's our preferred browser.

Google Reader: My First Google Gears/Safari-enabled App

With Google Gears installed, the first thing I've noticed is the new ability to take Google Reader offline. So, in the rare event that I'll be out of range of the Internet, but didn't get a chance to clear my Google Reader list first, I can take my favorite feeds with me. (See: Google Reader: Offline Reading)

Today's announcement also holds a hidden wrinkle - that the tool should be easily customized for any browser using WebKit. Without saying so, that certainly means Gears' integration in the Chrome browser is behind getting those of us using Safari will get some trickle-down help.