Axing Google's Gears may spark security concerns

By Gareth Morgan
23 Nov 2011 View Comments
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Search giant Google has confirmed that some out-of-season spring cleaning is resulting in it killing off a number of developmental projects, including one that was supposed to convince IT chiefs to embrace its cloud-based services.

In a blog post, Urs Hölzle, senior vice president, operations at Google confirmed that it was mothballing seven of its products which hadn't quite lived up to expectations.

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These included Wikipedia 'rival' Knol, its baffling communications platform Wave, and Google Gears – a tool for accessing Google's hosted email, calendar and documents offline.

The decision to can these projects would allow Google to focus its efforts elsewhere, said Hölzle. “Our aim is to build a simpler, more intuitive, truly beautiful Google user experience,” he wrote.

The demise of Gears comes as little surprise. In March, Google pulled its Gears browser extension for creating offline web applications and stopped supporting new browsers.

From 1 December, Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline will stop working across all browsers. “This is part of our effort to help incorporate offline capabilities into HTML5,” said Hölzle.

In some ways, the announcement shows how Google has been overtaken by the development of HTML5, said Richard Edwards, principal analyst at research group Ovum. But it also highlights that – unlike some of its competitors – Google is not wedded to its own technology if something better emerges, he added.

Nevertheless, the closure of Gears and reliance on HTML5 may cause some concern among IT chiefs, warned Edwards.

“The security capabilities of HTML5 mean its not totally suited to the enterprise,” he said.

In August 2011, the European Network and Information Security Agency, the computer security agency of the European Union, warned that the draft HTML5 standard had overlooked critical security issues.

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