To prove Web applications like Gmail and Google Docs could be as sophisticated as desktop apps, Google created its own desktop software a couple years ago -- a small utility called Gears. Once it's installed on a user's computer, features like offline caching of e-mails and drag-and-drop file uploading would be unlocked.
Many of those features are beginning to be adopted by HTML5, the next revision to the standard programming language that powers the Web.
For the time being, Gears will still feature a number of tools that can be opened using Firefox and Internet Explorer. The technology is built into Google's Chrome browser.
"We are excited that much of the technology in Gears, including offline support and geolocation APIs, are being incorporated into the HTML5 spec as an open standard supported across browsers, and see that as the logical next step for developers looking to include these features in their websites," wrote a Google spokesman in an e-mail.
That's great, but HTML5 isn't ready yet, and commercially available browsers don't support it.