Af en toe loopt het mis in “the cloud” en dan durven nochtans doorwinterde digitale nomaden al eens klagen over de onbeschikbaarheid van hun online tools, terwijl eeuwige web2.0-twijfelaars hun grote gelijk -dan toch tijdelijk- bewezen zien.
Misschien moeten die mannen en vrouwen toch eens kijken naar de offline-ondersteuning die bv. Gmail, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Calender, Zoho, Mindmeister en Remember the Milk bieden? En misschien moeten de webbouwers onder hen hun klanten die mogelijkheden ook beginnen verkopen? Want ik voorspel: 2010 wordt het jaar van offline-enabled webapps, mobiel maar even goed in de desktop-browser!
Google Gears is a fantastic browser plugin; it allows a developer to create applications that run while offline, syncing with a server when online. Two great examples of the power of that mechanism are Gmail (both the “desktop browser” and the mobile Android-version) and Mindmeister (only while in trial, for paying Mindmeister-accounts after that period). The problem with Gears however is that it’s a plugin and not a lot of people have it installed: only Chrome-users have it by default. And that’s where HTML5 comes in; one of the areas where the new spec offers vast improvements over html4/xhtml is the ability to take webapps offline by allowing a developer to store files for offline usage and to write data to a local, browser-embedded database. Both Safari 4 and Firefox 3.5 support these features, so maybe HTML5 makes Gears already redundant in those browsers with more to come?
I haven’t gotten around to experimenting with offline databases yet, but I did already look into offline files. At first sight, Gears Localserver and HTML5 Offline Webapps indeed seem very similar; your html-page points to a manifest-file which contains a list of assets (pages, images, css, js, …) that the browser has to store for offline usage. Easy enough, no?
So HTML5 Offline Webapps is no drop-in solution to speed up delivery of dynamic pages, you’ll still need Gears to take care of that (or rely on old-fashioned carefully configured expiry- and cache-headers). But, as Google proves with the iPhone-version of Gmail, Offline Webapps combined with a HTML5 offline database can work miracles if you use it the correct way.