De-supporting the majority?

A little long for a tweet, so I’ll post it here… word on Techmeme is that changes in Snow Leopard broke Google’s “Gears” plugin, so Google Apps will be “dropping Gears” and moving to “HTML5” instead.

Instead of adding an invisible capability to whatever the user’s choice of configuration, would you present a “Looks Best in Browser X!” type of barrier…?

Maybe the story isn’t accurate — I haven’t found any source link in the first few retellings I’ve read [!!], so it could be just another blogospheric falsehood. But if the story is accurate, then that translates to “We’ll be dropping support for the majority of the world — people who use Microsoft browsers or older browsers — in order to reduce our development costs for the people who buy Apple’s hardware.” Sounds strange!

Corrections welcome… I’m not sure if the story is inclusively correct, or if I understood it correctly, and I’m not really interested enough at the moment to research it more deeply. But from the above LA Times piece, doesn’t it sound like going from a plugin to requiring a browser change would make the final work pragmatically inaccessible to more people?

Afterword: After re-reading the current webpages, I’m not sold… the original LA Times story purported to be a product announcement, but then only said they had an email from some unnamed person at Google. Sources which don’t cite their data tend to be bogus.

6 Responses to De-supporting the majority?

  1. John Dowdell says:

    After publishing, I realized that Google Apps may be a particularly special case.

  2. IIRC, Google’s been de-emphasizing gears in favor of HTML 5 local storage for some time now. Gears’ implementation has always been…ugly. On the Mac, it was an input manager, which are pretty much nightmares to deal with, since they can inject into about any running application.
    However, your conclusions from that, namely:
    “But if the story is accurate, then that translates to “We’ll be dropping support for the majority of the world — people who use Microsoft browsers or older browsers — in order to reduce our development costs for the people who buy Apple’s hardware.” Sounds strange!”
    is bunk. it’s not just some weird Apple-controlling-google thing [jd sez: No assumption that it was.], but a sign that for most browser vendors, all but one really, HTML 5 is where you want to go.
    It’s not just Safari/Webkit, it’s also Firefox. Oh, and contrary to wherever you get your information, Webkit is *not* an apple only trick. Take a look at smartphone browsers, Webkit’s bloody everywhere.
    In fact, there’s really only one browser manufacturer that *isn’t* moving to HTML 5 support at full speed, and that’s Microsoft. but then again, as ActiveX becomes less and less of a need in even corporate america, who cares. If IE wants to relive the glory days of the late 90s, that’s their option, but those days, and the plugin lock-in they brought, are gone, and good riddance.

  3. Mark Milian says:

    Not sure what you mean by “product announcement.” In two sentences:
    Google is discontinuing development on Gears, and it’s browser team is moving its focus to HTML5. You can still use Gears on the systems that support it, but Google is encouraging adoption of the new standard.
    [jd sez: Thanks for the followup, Mark, but the question above remains unanswered… where’s the source evidence for the story? How do you know what you say you know?]

  4. Matthew Fabb says:

    John, as the following link shows, mobile WebKit is all over the place in basic CSS, HTML support, let alone HTML5 support:
    Few moblie WebKit browsers support local storage, one of the big selling points of Gears. However, I imagine for mobile, that’s besides the point, as I don’t think there is a Google Gears for mobile.
    As for IE, I don’t use it myself, but as a web developer it would be foolish to ignore over half of the web audience with still 60% to the high 70% of users still using IE, depending on where you get your statistics. As IE8 eats into IE7’s marketshare, some analytical websites even have IE6 as the #1 used browser now. Gears is a band-aid solution for some HTML5 support in IE, but still better than nothing.

  5. John Dowdell says:

    Some overnight developments… Anthony Ha at VentureBeat was also curious about the sourcing, and apparently got a second “official/unofficial” private email from an unnamed Google rep.
    Meanwhile, the Official Google Blog has no pertinent speech of its own, and the Gears API blog has not been updated since mid-2008. If it were a false rumor I would expect a staff response by now.
    For the story itself, I suspect this is another case of “Success has a thousand fathers, while failure is an orphan”… within an organized group of people it’s often very hard to get any stakeholder to go on-the-record and provide clear guidance when it’s a bit of news for which an individual might not wish to take responsibility. Normal occurrence, although continually regrettable.
    I see two issues here, the topical issue and the general issue:
    For the issue “Is Gears gone?” itself, thanks to Matthew above for getting back to my core question… why de-support the majority of surfers out there? As noted in my first comment, Google Docs may not be actively trying to reach people who use IE, assuming they’re also using MS Office. The demographics in this particular case may make the general question moot.
    But there’s also the big, big issue of “How does the blogosphere know what it says it knows?” Many of the headlines in the Techmeme cluster just repeated what they read, assuming its accuracy and veracity. Particularly with the breathless rumor-mongering around Tiger Woods this past week, and problems like ClimateGate belief systems, we’ve got collective problems in pulling solid info from the rushed (and for-profit) conversation. We still need to work through the basic principles of epistemology.


  6. John Dowdell says:

    fwiw, comments somehow assuming that my point in this essay was “Gears is dead, HTML5 droolz” will not get through the moderation queue. (Strawmen eat undue attention.)