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Brad Neuberg, Google Gears, and the Future of the Web 65

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the where-are-we-headed dept.
Linux.com has an interesting look at Google Gears and one of its leading evangelists, Brad Neuberg. "For Neuberg -- as for most developers -- the idea of expanding the Web's capabilities is intriguing in itself. But both inside and outside Google, his argument is that there's more at stake than just a particular piece of technology. In fact, he does not even seem particularly concerned whether Gears or some rival project takes on the role he envisions. What matters, he says, is that finding a solution to the problems of the Web is essential not only to the continued evolution of the Web, but also to its continued freedom. "
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Brad Neuberg, Google Gears, and the Future of the Web

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  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:42PM (#23385118) Journal
    How does a guy who says 'Lets keep it working so it can still be used' qualify as news... I thought it was just common sense!
    • by BradNeuberg (3364) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:20PM (#23386064)

      How does a guy who says 'Lets keep it working so it can still be used' qualify as news... I thought it was just common sense!
      Hi, I agree its common sense :) The cool thing about Gears is its trying to create a system to make this common sense actually happen on todays web. It will be great when its no longer news because the web has an open source update mechanism to get new standards and innovations into the web.

      Best,
          Brad Neuberg
      • Further adoption (Score:3, Interesting)

        by enjahova (812395)
        After reading the article (really!) I can see how Gears is more than just offline storage, but extending the browser to do what it should. Right now it is only available as a FF plugin right? Could it be expanded into the google toolbar? ported to IE in the toolbar?

        I want to look at this as a way to make even more powerful webapps, but until it gets more widespread it only seems appealing to apps that have a clear offline use.
        • Re:Further adoption (Score:4, Informative)

          by BradNeuberg (3364) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:06PM (#23392590)

          After reading the article (really!) I can see how Gears is more than just offline storage, but extending the browser to do what it should. Right now it is only available as a FF plugin right? Could it be expanded into the google toolbar? ported to IE in the toolbar?

          I want to look at this as a way to make even more powerful webapps, but until it gets more widespread it only seems appealing to apps that have a clear offline use.
          Gears is currently available on Firefox 1.5+ (Firefox 3 soon), Internet Explorer 6+, and Windows Mobile 5 and 6. It works across Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. Safari support is coming soon, Opera is being worked on, Firefox 3 support is done but is being dogfooded and tested. Expect to see Gears on other mobile browsers as well at some point.

          Best,
              Brad Neuberg
  • am i glad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ionix5891 (1228718)
    that the buzzwords like "web {[0-9]}.0" or "semantic web" are missing from a topic discussing future of the web
  • by DarkOx (621550) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:52PM (#23385236) Journal
    Why do we have to continue developing the web and forceing it do things way outside is problem domain. USENET did not have to evolve, ftp did not have to evolve, smtp did not, gopher did not, etc etc.

    Why can't we leave the web alone, use it for what we use it for now and develop a new rich application protocol if that is what people want. It might end up replacing the web like the web replaced gopher, which replaced Archie before it, or it might become an addition to the suite of internet protocols. Why does my web browser have to be all things to all people?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) *
      Ya mean like Second Life?

      Heh, sorry, couldn't resist.

    • by misleb (129952) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:03PM (#23385364)

      Why can't we leave the web alone, use it for what we use it for now and develop a new rich application protocol if that is what people want. It might end up replacing the web like the web replaced gopher, which replaced Archie before it, or it might become an addition to the suite of internet protocols. Why does my web browser have to be all things to all people?


      Because getting a fundamentally new common runtime environment and/or protocol to all people is f'ing hard. Especially now that the 'net has matured. With maturity comes momentum and inertia.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lazy Jones (8403)

        Because getting a fundamentally new common runtime environment and/or protocol to all people is f'ing hard. Especially now that the 'net has matured. With maturity comes momentum and inertia.

        Sorry, I don't get this. Java has been succesful at this (as well as other languages that can run on top of the JavaVM), Flash has been succesful, heck, even Linux and stuff like MAME is spreading all over with some effort.

        Let's not talk about enabling things in different ways, let's talk instead about how, after all these years with ever-increasing hardware performance, we're building layers upon layers of inefficient software so we can have crappy application performance all over again. Trying to run a

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sancho (17056) *

          Java has been succesful at this (as well as other languages that can run on top of the JavaVM), Flash has been succesful

          These work in the web browser. There's little obvious difference between these technologies and "the Internet" as far as the common person is concerned.

          Let's not talk about enabling things in different ways, let's talk instead about how, after all these years with ever-increasing hardware performance, we're building layers upon layers of inefficient software so we can have crappy application performance all over again. Trying to run applications with Javascript in a browser on a mobile phone, can it get more wasteful than that?

          There are really two problems here.

          One of the problems is data. I want access to my data. I want access to it anywhere. When I'm at a restaurant, I want to be able to pull out my phone and check my calendar, my mail, even open a file on my desktop. When I'm on a business trip, I want the same access on my laptop.

          There are lots of solutions to the data

        • by misleb (129952)
          > Sorry, I don't get this. Java has been succesful at this (as well as other languages that can run on top of the JavaVM)

          Not as a general purpose user applications. Java's popularity is primarily server-side.

          > Flash has been succesful,

          And it runs in you web browser and generally uses HTTP to communicate with servers.

          > heck, even Linux and stuff like MAME is spreading all over with some effort.

          What in the world does MAME have to do with anything?

          > Let's not talk about enabling things in different
    • The problem though is plugins. Why do you even need Flash/Java plugins? All the Flash one seems to do is use up 100% CPU on Linux and Java Applets are too slow for general use many times. AJAX (sorta) fixes this with how you don't need a plugin to view things and because it is not outside of the browser, it makes having your browser be 100% open source whereas Flash is proprietary (unless you want to use GNASH which, in my experience only really lets you view banner ads). So while a different protocol woul
      • by BradNeuberg (3364) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:52PM (#23386338)

        The problem though is plugins. Why do you even need Flash/Java plugins? All the Flash one seems to do is use up 100% CPU on Linux and Java Applets are too slow for general use many times. AJAX (sorta) fixes this with how you don't need a plugin to view things and because it is not outside of the browser, it makes having your browser be 100% open source whereas Flash is proprietary (unless you want to use GNASH which, in my experience only really lets you view banner ads). So while a different protocol would be nice, AJAX is much much nicer then Flash/Java or other "plugins" that are used to create applications on websites.
        Hi Darkness, the idea behind Gears is that Ajax is the platform (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XHR, etc.). However, there are some new features (and existing standards like HTML 5) that Ajax and web applications need to move forward and be truly successful, such as better performance, client-side relational storage, offline, etc. We aren't trying to replace Ajax with another model.

        Best,
            Brad Neuberg
        • We aren't trying to replace Ajax with another model.

          Why not? HTML wasn't designed to be an application programming language; it was designed to display text in a device-independent manner.

          Every developer here has written an application that has had requests for changes that violate one or more initial core design assumptions and has seen the disaster that results when they try to modify that application to do something that it was never intended to do.

          This is what is happening with AJAX, etc. and web browsers. Web browsers were never supposed to be an inter

    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:31PM (#23386162) Homepage

      USENET did not have to evolve,
      Did not have to evolve? Because it didn't evolve we are now stuck with dozens of web forums with proprietary data storage and no way to retrieve posts other then the HTML interface. Yeah, I know USENET still exist, but pretty much everything these days happens on either mailing lists or web forums which both lack a lot of features that USENET had back then 20 years ago.

      When you don't evolve stuff you have a very good chance to end up with a whole bunch of ugly ad hoc fixes.
      • by calmond (1284812)

        When you don't evolve stuff you have a very good chance to end up with a whole bunch of ugly ad hoc fixes.
        Hey - don't make fun of Windows - this is a discussion about Google Gears...
      • by Ed Avis (5917)


        I agree that most web forums royally suck. Slashdot is one of the best, and it still sucks.
      • by Ed Avis (5917)
        http://gmane.org/ [gmane.org]
      • Yeah, I know USENET still exist, but pretty much everything these days happens on either mailing lists or web forums which both lack a lot of features that USENET had back then 20 years ago.
        Hey, I still use USENET daily, but "a lot of features"? 72-character lines of ASCII text? That's about as feature-rich as a bar in Sudan. (But, just how I like it, dinosaur that I am.)
        • by Sancho (17056) *
          USENET's killer feature is that the data is separated from the program. I can read USENET with multiple clients, as long as they adhere to the same protocol.

          With forums, I have to use a web browser. In some cases, I have to use a web browser with certain features (Javascript, for example.) I can't download all of the posts for offline perusal, and I'm limited to whatever crappy search function is implemented in that forum software.
          • USENET's killer feature is that the data is separated from the program. I can read USENET with multiple clients, as long as they adhere to the same protocol.
            True, but Usenet is so technically and organizationally archaic that the vast majority of people chose to ignore that killer feature and conduct their discussions on the web instead.

            Had Usenet "evolved" it still might be an vigorous discussion network and not a refuge for old timers, kooks, and trolls.
    • by BradNeuberg (3364) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:33PM (#23386190)

      Why do we have to continue developing the web and forceing it do things way outside is problem domain. USENET did not have to evolve, ftp did not have to evolve, smtp did not, gopher did not, etc etc.

      Why can't we leave the web alone, use it for what we use it for now and develop a new rich application protocol if that is what people want. It might end up replacing the web like the web replaced gopher, which replaced Archie before it, or it might become an addition to the suite of internet protocols. Why does my web browser have to be all things to all people?
      Hi DarkOx, the history of the web itself is one of evolving it away from its original problem domain. Even the addition of images was controversial; the web was initially meant to be a text-only medium. Unfortunately, large-scale open systems like the web evolve from simple systems into domains they were never meant for; this is just the nature of systems that are world-spanning like the Internet and Web. Systems that are perfect and self-contained don't tend to actually get adopted on a global scale. Clay Shirky has a great essay on this topic called "In Praise of Evolvable Systems" which you can read here: http://www.shirky.com/writings/evolve.html

      The idea behind Gears is to be able to get new technologies (and existing standards we've been waiting years for) into the contemporary web so that we can actually use them today.

      I agree that it would be great to have better rich application protocols. Two things you must make sure of to be successful with this though: first, successful systems tend to evolve from earlier ones; just creating an entire new system will probably not get adopted. If you can evolve the web from the inside out into your system it will have better adoption. Second, the thing that makes the web really unique is that web pages can be basic static documents all the way to full blown applications, and everything in between (just look at MySpace, which are a fusion of web pages + web applications mashed up). Just making another web clone of the desktop based paradigm will probably not be successful or move things forward.

      Best,
          Brad Neuberg
    • Why do we have to continue developing the web and forceing it do things way outside is problem domain. USENET did not have to evolve, ftp did not have to evolve, smtp did not, gopher did not, etc etc.

      Wait.. what?

      Usenet evolved with things like par2, killfiles, spam filters, and probably a bunch of lower level things I wasn't around to observe.

      FTP evolved a TON -- Theres like 20 rfcs for it. As early as being modified to accept IP addresses once IP was invented. Then theres things like hostmask and ident res

    • by mgblst (80109)
      FTP evolved, where do you think mget came from?
    • Why do we have to continue developing the web and forceing it do things way outside is problem domain. USENET did not have to evolve, ftp did not have to evolve, smtp did not, gopher did not, etc etc.

      <flamebait>Yeah, and they're all dead.</flamebait>

      USENET:
      Effectively dead. Now, before all the geeks pop up and say, no, comp.lang.* is great, or alt.binaries* is where it's at, YOU (we) ARE GEEKS. Normal people have never heard of it. Normal ISPs no longer offer NNTP servers, or not full ones, or if they do you only find out about it if you ask the guy behind the "Beware of the leopard" door. The last and only time I saw an ISP welcome pack mention USENET was about '97, and even that w
      • by soliptic (665417)

        Sorry, bad form to reply to myself, but I forgot an important qualifier necessary to make my SMTP paragraph even remotely credible in a devil's advocate kind of way ;)

        I meant to say, the exception is at work, where of course I still use email heavily. BUT, this is Exchange; now, I'm not an Exchange admin so I have no idea if it's SMTP, but knowing MS I suspect the answer is "not really", and conceptually, there's no reason why it would have to be. Within a 'sealed' workplace, nobody cares if you use a di

  • I'd be more impressed with Google's forays into Javascript if they could make their existing stuff work right. After several years of deployment, Google Maps still displays incorrectly in Firefox 2 if you spin the scroll wheel too fast. That's about where window refresh was at Microsoft Windows 2.x or so - broken.

    • Re:Google vs. Ajax (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:20PM (#23385530)
      After several years of deployment, Google Maps still displays incorrectly in Firefox 2 if you spin the scroll wheel too fast. That's about where window refresh was at Microsoft Windows 2.x or so - broken.

      AJAX is a method to shoehorn functionality into a trifecta of legacy platforms that was never really designed for it. Like retrofitting a horseless carriage with a honda civic engine and bolting on some wings, a rudder, and a propeller with the intent to fly across the atlantic.

      Just because you've gotten it to fly doesn't mean you've invented a modern aircraft.
      • by psykocrime (61037)

        After several years of deployment, Google Maps still displays incorrectly in Firefox 2 if you spin the scroll wheel too fast. That's about where window refresh was at Microsoft Windows 2.x or so - broken.

        AJAX is a method to shoehorn functionality into a trifecta of legacy platforms that was never really designed for it. Like retrofitting a horseless carriage with a honda civic engine and bolting on some wings, a rudder, and a propeller with the intent to fly across the atlantic.

        Just because you've gotten it to fly doesn't mean you've invented a modern aircraft.

        Well said, friend, well said. If I had mod points, you'd definitely get a +1 from me for that.

    • by ajs (35943)
      1. "Google's forays into Javascript"?! Where have you been living?

      2. What you're describing sounds more like a limitation of the platform you're using than anything else. I'm using FF2 and scrolling like mad, trying to replicate your problem. No dice.

      3. Gears != Google Maps. Nuff said.

      Gears is clearly a necessary technology for the Web. The only concern I have is that it's so fundamental that it should not be part of a plugin, but rather built into the browser. I understand they're doing it as a plugin beca
      • Re:Google vs. Ajax (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BradNeuberg (3364) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:26PM (#23387014)

        Gears is clearly a necessary technology for the Web. The only concern I have is that it's so fundamental that it should not be part of a plugin, but rather built into the browser. I understand they're doing it as a plugin because they want it to work everywhere, but since it's open source, everyone with a browser really should be treating it as an API and writing their own browser components that map to it (or adapting the Gears source to do so).
        I'd love for folks to just grab the Gears source and bake those APIs into their browser; its under a Apache-like license so thats easy to do. The first thing browser folks should do, though, is adopt the HTML 5 interfaces, and simply use the Gears code as the implementation. Getting HTML 5 into the browsers is the most important thing. Once you have this bake the extra Gears stuff in, plus the Gears update mechanism so we can keep innovating past HTML 5! Feel free to contact me if you want to do this.

        BTW, one thing that make Gears unique is that its _not_ just bound to one browser; its cross browser, so we can rev the web rather than just one browser.

        Best,
            Brad Neuberg
        • by patro (104336)

          one thing that make Gears unique is that its _not_ just bound to one browser; its cross browser, so we can rev the web rather than just one browser.
          Cross-browser? Does it work on Opera? If not why not? Whose fault is it?
          • Cross-browser? Does it work on Opera? If not why not? Whose fault is it?

            Yes. No. Because it's a fifth-place browser, falling just behind Safari, with of a share of around 2% (might as well complain that it doesn't work in IE5, which is also within a % point of Opera numbers). Yours, for thinking that a browser used by less than 2% of the users would have all the same cool support as browsers used by 90%.

            Anyway, they're working on Safari support right now. They've talked about adding Opera support. The source is open so the only thing stopping any Opera user who can progra

          • by BradNeuberg (3364)
            Work is being done on Safari, and Opera is part of the Gears community and has been working with us on getting Gears going there.

            Best,
                Brad Neuberg
  • Yahoo Pipes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:56PM (#23385274) Homepage Journal
    The most awesome Web 2.0 tool that Google didn't invent...

    http://blog.pipes.yahoo.com/about-pipes/ [yahoo.com]

    From... YAHOO?!?

    Pipes lets you use a GUI to write little 'programs' (functions appear as elements in a flowchart) that aggregate and process data from almost any source on the web. For fun, my first pipe was a simple experiment, I took the slashdot RSS feed and performed a flickr search on all the "imporant" keywords in each story title, then presented a list of stories+photos. Was easy, educational, funny in many cases, and not completely useless.
  • "There's only a brief period of time in which things are fluid and can change," he says. "For radio, it was the '20s, and for TV the '50s. Then things crystallize, and we have to live with those changes. Right now, the Internet is malleable, and we can put our stamp on it."

    IMHO this comparison is totally off. Radio's and tv's are simple devices that cannot be 'changed' once they are in the customers hands. Computers are totally different. Applications and even protocols come (and sometimes go); Even TCP/IP is about to undergo a mayor 'upgrade'. He may be right, but this analogy does nothing to convince of that.

    • by BradNeuberg (3364) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:44PM (#23386272)

      "There's only a brief period of time in which things are fluid and can change," he says. "For radio, it was the '20s, and for TV the '50s. Then things crystallize, and we have to live with those changes. Right now, the Internet is malleable, and we can put our stamp on it."
      IMHO this comparison is totally off. Radio's and tv's are simple devices that cannot be 'changed' once they are in the customers hands. Computers are totally different. Applications and even protocols come (and sometimes go); Even TCP/IP is about to undergo a mayor 'upgrade'.

      He may be right, but this analogy does nothing to convince of that.
      It's not just about being able to technologically upgrade something; it's also about how power starts to become concentrated and those with their hands on the levers don't want to change things. We could have distributed TV and radio far more than we have, especially in the 70s when cable TV came along, then in the 80s when satellite TV appeared, and so on. It wasn't until streaming video, which helps to shift power, that TV can once again be revisited and the model in which it works.

      I agree with you that TVs and radios are far more fixed and non-upgradable than computers are. However, at some point the network itself will be hard to upgrade, which we are already finding with IPv4. Its gets asymptoticly harder to upgrade deployed systems over time. I joined the Gears team because it seemed like a clever way to help delay this on the web for a bit.

      Best,
          Brad Neuberg
      • The 'hands on the levers' you speak of are again totally different. The TV and radio stations were / are themselves responsible of what they transmit(ted). The title for 'hands on the levers of the net' would be most probable for ISPs, since they are in far fewer numbers than either content producers and content consumers and are already leveraging their (in some cases almost monopoly like) powers in for instance the web neutrality issue. But still: ISPs do not create content themselves like in a way Compus

      • I have waited my whole life to hear the word "asymptotically" used in a conversational sentence.
    • by stang (90261)

      Radio's and tv's are simple devices that cannot be 'changed' once they are in the customers hands

      Criminey! So many apostrophe abuses in a single sentence. For the record: Plural nouns do not get the apostrophe, possessives do. So this should be:

      Radios and TVs are simple devices that cannot be 'changed' once they are in the customer's hands

      See? It's simple!

      And a bit of a personal rant: it *is* possible to 'overuse' 'so-called' 'scare quotes,' so you 'want' to be 'careful' about this.

      • Considered the fact that english is not my native language and that I posted this in an insomniac state induced by a 9 hour jetlag after traveling for 26 hours, I think I did pretty well. And the reason I put 'changed' within quotes is that if I do not, there are always ppl on /. that state that one can indeed change a tv or radio, just by opening it up and using a soldering iron.

        Please consider that language is just a way of people relaying a message to each other. While I agree that proper grammar and s

  • by datadefender (1205712) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:30AM (#23388336) Homepage
    Call me old-fashioned, but I want to control where my data is stored and I want to make sure the programs I use to work my data is around years later. That is why I story my data locally (and a backup offsite) and keep my software locally on my PC. I decide when to migrate to a new version or application and only after I have verified it works with my data etc. With Web-Apps I have absolutely no control when new releases are forced on me and potentially cannot deal with my 10 year old data. I still use Office 97 - works just fine - no need to upgrade. And the data itself ? Will it still be available 10 years from now when stored at Google or some other service provider. What happens if the Google business model some day no longer works ? Will they then charge me to get to my data ?
  • So.. yeah, will this finally fix tables so they work the same on all browsers?

    Sometimes new tech should take a back seat to making existing stuff work properly.

    The world is a perfect example.
    • by dyefade (735994)
      How are Google in any position to change the rendering methods of various browsers?

      It's daft to say that since there is a lack of support in some areas, all development should be stopped across the board. Ideally everyone will move to HTMl5 and JS2, but since that isn't happening any time soon (in terms of my own career/learning it may as well be 20 years away), does that mean all the development in these areas should just stop?

      People who are actually doing things (e.g. http://developers.slashdot.org/articl [slashdot.org]
      • My comment wasn't meant quite that literally.

        The point is there should be more attention given to current issues instead of leaving things in a semi-working state before moving on to greener pastures. There's a great deal to fix with current HTML, and it's worth it as it will be around for a long time yet.
  • by paugq (443696)
    If I were to develop a web-based desktop application, I'd use a web framework which allows me to develop a webapp just like it was a desktop app. The only such framework I know is Wt ( http://www.webtoolkit.eu/ [webtoolkit.eu] ): C++, Qt-like API. I gave up on Rails after discovering it.
    • by BradNeuberg (3364)

      If I were to develop a web-based desktop application, I'd use a web framework which allows me to develop a webapp just like it was a desktop app. The only such framework I know is Wt ( http://www.webtoolkit.eu/ [webtoolkit.eu] ): C++, Qt-like API. I gave up on Rails after discovering it.

      I like the Qt model. However, C++ is a pretty brittle language to base a distributed system like the web on. I agree its probably useful for certain server-side scenarios like you describe, but as a general programming model for moving the web forward its not the best choice, plus requires too much trust from the end-user.

      Best,
      Brad Neuberg

  • by _bug_ (112702)
    First off, the web isn't even stable. Why try to bloat it further? Didn't anyone take a lesson from Microsoft? Bloating before you've stabilized what you have IS BAD and leads to Vista.

    JavaScript, ActionScript, embedded video, even IMAGES, can all be exploited with quite a bit of ease. Ever wonder where all those botnets come from? It ain't from e-mail attachments. People have had that lesson drained into their heads for over a decade now.

    No, the botnets come from loading exploited web sites that ask the us

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