Google Gears and Microsoft IE6 Ride Into the Sunset

Two cowboys ride off into the sunset. The younger of the two was brought in to do a specific job for a limited time, while the older has been around for what seems like forever.

I refer respectively to Google Gears and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. We’ll start with the latter, the browser that would not die, but that seems to have got a lot closer to extinction this year.

The IE6 story is well told, mainly in comic strip form, by Brad Colbow at Smashing Magazine. (By the way, I like Smashing enough to suggest that you sign up for its newsletter and for a chance to win some of the cool giveaways.)

So, on to the story of the Mountain View Kid: Google Gears. Gears’ most striking feature is that it allows you to access the web without an internet connection. It is of course necessary that the browser and the sites you’re using are Gears-enabled.

So why can the Kid? Because offline access to the web belongs in web standards. So Google has shifted effort away from Gears itself and “towards bringing all of the Gears capabilities into web standards like HTML5” (quoting from the Gears API blog).

Reaction to the Gears news seems to have been positive. To some, it looks good because standards are good (and I think they are usually better than the alternative). To others, the news about Gears looks good because Gears itself wasn’t (and my own limited use of Gears did yield some rather weird results).

MG at TechCrunch thinks that Gears deserves to die because it is guilty of being a plugin, and plugins fragment the web. While I see what he means, I don’t think all plugins are equally guilty. For example, without Gears, I need an internet connection to access the web, but I’m used to that. Flash is far more guilty: without it, much of the web is unusable.

In sum, I’m glad that each of these two cowboys is taking a last ride. To mix metaphors, the web will be a less tangled place without them.

Thanks to German Vidal for making the photo available under Creative Commons.

WordPress and Google Buzz

Google Buzz is a platlication: it’s both an application and a platform on which applications can be built. It’s been a busy application, seeing millions of people and posts in its first couple of days.

It’s also been a busy platform. I have a particular interest in the applications that bridge Buzz and WordPress. So does Mashable, as we can see from today’s post. It’s mainly a roundup of the plugins that put Google Buzz buttons on self-hosted WordPress blogs. As such, it doesn’t live up to its title: HOW TO: Integrate Google Buzz Into Your WordPress Blog.

I’m interested in an aspect of blog/buzz integration that the Mashable post doesn’t cover: having my WordPress posts show up in Google Buzz. There is a way to do this that works both with blogs hosted at (as this one currently is) and with WordPress blogs hosted elsewhere (such as Andrew’s Wanderings).

In short: you tell Google Webmaster Tools that you own the blog in question; then Google Buzz will allow you to add the blog to your list of connected sites. I found out about this at the forums, which in turn linked to an amusingly untitled blog for details.

By the way, there does seem to be a way of putting a Google Buzz button in a post at, but I haven’t tried it.

Buzz Bestowed on Blizzard-Bound, Bread-Baking Blogger

French Bread FaceSo I just buzzed my first buzz. I’m not kidding about the bread-making, and I’m certainly not kidding about the blizzard.

I was going to add belated to the post title. I kept on checking my Gmail, since I knew that to be the notification mechanism. But there was no email about it, so when I checked Gmail via my iGoogle home page, I seemed Buzzless. Then I went to Gmail itself, and saw the invite there, albeit not in a mail.

In my crusty mood, I thought I saw a grumpy face on one of the baguettes I made. It is my new Google profile image, and hence my Buzz icon.

Google Voice: Two Steps Forward,…

One recent step takes Google Voice onto the iPhone. As Om reports, it’s browser-based (HTML5). Hence it sidesteps security at the iPhone app store.

A few days ago, Michael Arrington declared himself so besotted with Google Voice that he followed its beckoning extension into Chrome from Safari. Said extension adds click (a phone number on a web page) to call (via Google Voice) to the Chrome browser.

The above two steps have a few things in common: about Google Voice; positive; something of a score for Google over Apple; written by the founder of a blog that grew into a New Media Property (rather than delegated to one of several other writers at said property).

The third and last step I’ll describe in this post offers a contrast with the first two. It’s a step backwards for Google Voice. GV hasn’t worked on my Android G1 pretty much since I moved from Boston to Silver Spring.

I submitted a support ticket at the GV site a few days ago, but have yet to hear anything. Meanwhile, all the calls that I was hoping would be free (or very cheap, in the case of international calls) fail over to a “real” phone number, and T-Mobile bills for real money.

I also posted about this elsewhere. Perhaps that’s why my attempt to give away GV invites didn’t work…

Google Docs: Not Just For Documents Anymore

Every so often, Google announces something to do with file storage at one of its services, and the cry goes up: GDrive ahoy! Here we go again. It’ll soon be possible to storage any type of file in Google Docs. Michael Arrington hails this as the GDrive, even as he is told that the GDrive doesn’t exist.

The GigaOm coverage describes the move as being in line with the long-term GDrive strategy that Google is reported to be focused on. The ReadWriteWeb post doesn’t mention the GD-word at all, but sees that this as major change for Google Docs: now for storage as much as collaboration.

At Mashable, Christina Warren positions the new Google Docs against other cloud storage options, including Google’s own Picasa and independents like Dropbox. Comments (at Mashable and elsewhere) suggest that Google should just buy Dropbox.

Comments also point out that other options seem better than “any file type goes” Google Docs in terms of tools or amount of storage. That may be true, but beside the point. Millions of people have Google accounts, and may be more inclined to use them for storage than to get a new account elsewhere.

Enterprises will also tend to prefer Google, but for other reasons. Google is to the web as IBM was to mainframes: it seems, and may well be, the safe solution. As for other pricing and file size constraints (250 MB max), I’m sure that they will be up for negotiation for large accounts.

Happy Nexus One Day

If you don’t already know that the Nexus One was launched today, you’re probably not interested in the new Android phone anyway. If you are interested, you may well have seen the 24 month cost of ownership comparison between the N1, the iPhone 3GS, and a couple of other smartphones. It makes the N1 look like a pretty reasonable deal.

Just three comments:

Haiku-Ready Headline

PCWorld gets it:
Underwhelmed By Chrome OS?
That’s Kinda the Point

Yes, the two parts of the headline are 7 and 5 syllables. Just add a first line, and… instant addition to my collection of Chrome haikus.

Chrome defines a web appliance. I believe there’s a big market for such Chromebooks if they overwhelm in terms of speed and value.

Data Liberation Front: Many Types of Goodness

The Data Liberation Front is a team at Google with a laudable mission.

Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google’s products. Our team’s goal is to make it easier to move data in and out.

The DLF is good, in many ways. Its mission is good, in that it’s ethical. I believe that the DLF will be good for Google, the profit-seeking firm. Let me break out some reasons, starting with those most relevant to ethics (good for society) and moving toward those most relevant to profit (good for Google shareholders).

  1. Yes, users should be able to control their data.
  2. Don’t be evil is a Google motto that arouses more cynicism as Google gets older and bigger. The DLF is a Google team opposed to the evil of lockin.
  3. Many users are wary of where they store their data. Such users, when evaluating a software tool, will want to verify that there is a way out before they bring their data in. The DLF is building and verifying ways out.
  4. As Google encourages users to bring stuff into Google services and out of non-Google services, it can point to DLF to show that Google doesn’t believe in one-way streets into Google. It believes in two-way streets, with the user being allowed to set the direction. If you want an example of something that Google is offering to take over for you, how about voicemail?
  5. Although most of the coverage of DLF has been about moving data out of Google services if you want to, note that the mission is “to make it easier to move data in and out” (emphasis added by me).