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Google to accelerate Chrome’s adoption? April 14, 2010

Posted by Sacha in English, IT.

In the last few days, Google announced quite a few welcomed new features to their Google Apps offering, including better text/spreadsheet editors, an independent drawing tool, better Google Docs file sharing capabilities (those still remain pretty weak). That’s all great.

Yet, a postscriptum in their announcement also indicates that as of May 3 (read: first thing tomorrow morning in Enterprise-speak), the Google Mail/Calendar/Docs offline feature based on Google Gears will be disabled! That’s right, one of Google App’s key feature to simply be usable by many enterprises (i.e. being able to work offline) will be disabled in 3 weeks.

So, what are the options? Well, that is where things get interesting: Google promises that a solution based on the HTML 5 Web SQL Database spec should be available by then. So let’s look at the typical browsers out there and which are the ones supporting this feature:

Leading browsers not supporting this feature:

  • IE
  • Firefox
  • Safari

And since Opera is not officially supported on Google Apps, that leaves you with … Google Chrome.

Translation: “Dear valued customer, in 3 weeks we are going to abandon a key feature of Google Apps: offline files. Yet, if you want to still benefit from it, you have no other choice but roll-out our Google Chrome browser across your enterprise in that generous 3-weeks timeframe.

As much as I am a fan of Google Apps (and using it extensively on a daily basis), I am speechless about Google’s current move.





1. Andrew Benton - April 14, 2010

Google is trying to be standards compliant. Google Gears isn’t a standard, it’s a plugin. So in my opinion they are doing the right thing by pushing more functionality into those standards that can handle it. You might be right that this is a little early though, given that Chrome is the only browser that currently supports html5 offline storage.

Sacha - April 15, 2010

Hello Andrew,

But Google is the one who has invented Gears 🙂 and *they* made it a *cross-browser* solution so that it gets wide adoption, so that enterprises using all kind of browsers could even start considering Google Apps as a solution. That was all part of a well thought plan to accelerate GA’s adoption and get over a big issue: offline access from a browser. That’s all good. And the fact that now they want to leverage HTML5 features is great as well. But why don’t they keep both solutions side-by-side (Gear+HTML5) for, let’s say, 6 months, or until at least 50% of the browsers’ market share support this HTML5 feature? Dropping support for offline GA in *3 weeks* for ALL browsers except Chrome seems like a pretty aggressive tactic to me.



2. Thomas Heute - April 15, 2010

I wish we (GateIn) had the power to do that to, stop support for IE would be such a relief 🙂

I like Google Chrome btw, my new default web browser for the past month.

3. Louis Naugès - April 15, 2010

Hello, Sacha,

I am not be as pessimistic as you are.
Yes, Google is discontinuing Gears and this had been announced already. Why? Gears was an interim solution to solve the off-line issue.
HTML5 will offer the functionality for ALL Web applications.
All the providers of good modern browsers, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome have clearly said that they will support HTML 5 ASAP.
There will be a small price to pay during 2010, ie not getting off-line for Google Apps.
But, at the end we will all win with the adoption of HTML 5.

On my Macintosh, I use mostly Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Louis Naugès

Sacha - April 15, 2010


Well, I am not pessimistic, I simply find it unacceptable 🙂

Let’s say I am a random user at some relatively large customer of GA and I depend a lot on the offline feature (typical case for sales, pre-sales and consultants who travel a lot). It means that I’ll have to beg my IT department to roll out a new browser on my (locked-down) machine in less than three weeks? What if they cannot do it (have other priorities, cannot evaluate Chrome in such a small time frame, want to put in place proper security patch procedures since like all software chrome as security holes – http://www.vupen.com/english/searchengine.php?keyword=google+chrome – etc.)? Does it mean their workforce cannot use their offline features anymore?

I really like what Google is trying to build, but their attitude in this specific example is simply not in-line with the expectations of enterprises – what were they thinking?

I’ve observed this problem a few times where they do not seem to fully care about the operational issue that their decisions might lead to at the customer’s site. Last example in date: in the last 48h, lots of GA users have been unable to use their calendar (http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Calendar/label?lid=69ef18c8639e7166&hl=en), yet, Google’s official status page was green all over the place. This kind of disconnect between Google and the reality in the field is not going to help reduce the fear for cloud-based solutions – which is a shame: we need the Google and salesforce.com of the world, as grand brothers, to help us change that perception.



Louis Naugès - April 15, 2010


I am also a heavy user of Google Apps (I am now responding from Madrid)
Yes, I miss Gears but… not that much.
I find Wi-Fi networks all over the world and, honestly, I was using less and less Gears. The only place where I miss it is in planes, but I can “survive” without apps for two hours.

Google is a young company, they are learning, fast, what are the key requirements of large organizations.

Google Apps without Gears vs Exchange /Outlook?
I will always chose Google Apps!!!

4. Phil Wilson - April 18, 2010

Well, they did say back in February (or was it Jan?) that they’d stopped all work on Gears whilst they implemented native browser support as part of their work on HTML5 and the related specs, and that this would be the future upgrade path. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

Sacha - April 19, 2010

Stopping developement is not the same as removing a feature from production.

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