Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Gmail Offline is here (or coming soon for you!)

Category: Gears, Google, Offline

Gmail Offline has been an incredibly long wished for product feature and now it is coming (takes time to push it out to people and it will appear in Settings – Labs).

This is a big deal. It uses Gears of course, and many people are always saying “it’s about bloody time.”

This is easy to say from the comfort of the arm chair at home. In reality, an architectural change like this is huge. Moving to a sync model that works reliably is tough in the best of times, and when you try to do it to a product that is popular, it gets that much harder to do right.

I got to use this when I was working at Google and saw numerous ups and downs (one version works well, then it gets buggy, then it gets better, etc). It was fantastic to be able to use it on the plane (or would have been if I wasn’t scared that someone would look over my shoulder). It resets expectations. You get used to opening up the browser when you KNOW you are offline. Having this in a product that you use as much as email will change user behaviour and will lead us down the path of more easily being able to do browser like things when connectivity is rough. Hell, knowing that WiFi jumping up and down won’t affect me is a big deal.

Congrats to Andy Palay and the team. I hope that we get to see an interview him as he discusses the architecture and the various tweaks to that architecture as they nailed this all down. We have much that we can learn from the process.

If you don’t have it in your “Labs” settings (I don’t right now, and the witing game is annoying I know!) check out the high level video:

Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:48 pm

4.1 rating from 30 votes


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The question is why they choose Gears rather than the HTML5 standards that provide the same offline storage functionality — both Firefox and Safari (and other webkit based browsers) support them, Opera may support the APIs (i can’t recall off the top of my head), in fact the only browser that do not are IE (duh), and Chrome (which disabled the support already provided by webkit)

Comment by olliej — January 27, 2009

Pretty cool, problem is though that Gears has no 64bit version yet, so I can’t use it…

Comment by Snyke — January 27, 2009


And if they supported HTML5 rather than Gears, how would it work in IE?

Comment by Nosredna — January 27, 2009

@Nosredna: well, that leaves you in a position — what represents a larger market share: Safari+Firefox+Opera or those people on IE who have Gears installed?

Comment by olliej — January 27, 2009

This is cool. But I thought Gmail had IMAP support? Wasn’t that sufficient for most offline email scenarios?


Comment by jlward4th — January 28, 2009

i don’t like the Gear idea too… There are a lot of different and more portable solutions… by the way… anybody know if there are gmail api that we can implement in our offline mail reader?

Comment by nunziofiore — January 28, 2009

Great idea! ^The geeks above are forgetting that a lot of their less techy users won’t even think to install apps, or want to configure IMAP etc. *tips a hat at the gmail crew* good work!

Comment by oopstudios — January 28, 2009

It certainly will make life simpler for the average user of gmail who don’t want to bother configuring settings etc

Comment by WebDesignShowroom — January 28, 2009


Aren’t most of those less techy users also not using Firefox and Gears? Don’t get me wrong – this is very cool. But it does seem a little bit like we are trying to reinvent everything in the web when there are already good non-web solutions for these problems. I personally like having a non-web email reader, a non-web IM client, a non-web word processor, etc. The web is great but I don’t think it’s great for everything. But hey, we’re geeks and we like to build things. I do it too. :)

Comment by jlward4th — January 28, 2009

>>@Nosredna: well, that leaves you in a position — what represents a larger market share: Safari+Firefox+Opera or those people on IE who have Gears installed?
Since most users use IE, what’s more likely? Getting them to install Gears in IE, or getting them to change web browsers?

Comment by Nosredna — January 28, 2009

BTW, I probably should have ended that comment with a smiley…
Here it is;

Comment by ThomasHansen — January 28, 2009

No smiles here.

I am incredulous that Google still does not have a 64-bit Linux version of Gears.

Since I travel a lot, offline capability IS something that would make Gmail more attractive. However, increasingly Google seems to be spurning its most loyal users with key Google products for Linux always the poor relation.

Comment by doctorpacket — January 30, 2009

Functionally, does anyone know what this entails? Will their database / algorithm then be stored locally? I would think this would go against their goals of obfuscating their methods.

Can’t imagine that storing all those seasonal Google logos would make much of a difference :).

Comment by JonnyRash — January 30, 2009

I dont know if we will find this all that helpful in the long run
Intresting thanks

Comment by RawChocolate — July 30, 2009

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