It looks like Google is scaling back its support for Gears, the browser extension it launched in 2007 to add capabilities to web applications such as offline access.
The company is being a little vague about its exact plans. The Los Angeles Times reported that Google is “letting the sun set on its Gears project” — not because it isn’t interested in web apps with additional capabilities, but because many of those features will be including in HTML5, the next version of the standard web programming language. I asked Google for more information, and it sent the following statement (which repeats what it said for The Times):
As you know, we’ve been big supporters of HTML5 for a while now and we’re excited that a lot of the features that we launched with Gears a few years ago are now making their way into the HTML5 spec in an open and standard way.
To be clear, we’re continuing to support Gears so that nothing breaks for sites that use it. But we expect developers to use HTML5 for these features moving forward as it’s a standards-based approach that will be available across all browsers.
So Gears users shouldn’t worry that the program will disappear in the next few months. After all, HTML5 isn’t even finalized yet. But as that programming language is rolled out, don’t be surprised if you hear less and less about new versions of Gears, and more about Google continuing to let Gears support slip, as it has (temporarily?) on Safari for Snow Leopard and Chrome for Mac.