Google rolled out Chrome 12 to beta May 9, loading up the build with better graphics by adding support for hardware-accelerated 3D CSS, and bolstering its Safe Browsing technology.
The 3D CSS lets developers add 3D effects to Web content. Meanwhile, the fresh Safe Browsing release will still proect users from malware and phishing Websites, but now it will warn users before they download some types of malicious files.
Users may also now delete Flash Local Shared Objects (LSOs), which allows Websites to store information on a user's computer using forms of local data storage, right from Chrome's settings.
Previously, users could only delete Flash LSOs using an online settings application on Adobe's Website. Google worked with the Flash maker to affect this change.
Google also fortified screen reader support in Chrome for JAWS, NVDA and VoiceOver. This software that describes the contents of the screen using synthesized speech or braille to help people who are blind or visually impaired.
The big news here, though, is that Google as promised has lost the Google Gears plug-in, which enabled offline support for content through caching and other technologies.
Google has phased out Gears in favor of the increasingly powerful offline capabilities in HTML5.
"We're excited about the potential of HTML5 to enable powerful web applications, and we hope that Google Gears rests in peace," Google noted in its brief eulogy.
Meanwhile, I'm reporting live from Google I/O today and tomorrow. Android lineup is today; Chrome tomorrow. We'll see then what Google's plans are to bolster its 12 percent market share.
Expect a Chrome OS notebook from Samsung for sure.
Google Gears was launched back in 2007 -- before Google Chrome, and back when web apps were still in their early stages -- as a way for web app developers to allow offline access to documents. Gears never really caught on, and was eventually replaced by standards-based solutions. Now, Google has announced that it's finally removing support for the Gears plugin from Chrome.
With Google now in charge of its own browser, there's no longer a reason to hack together a plugin for offline access to documents. The removal of Gears is a strong hint that Google's promised offline access for its own Google Docs -- scheduled for "early 2011" -- is almost here.
Over at ReadWriteWeb, Sarah Perez has blogged about one significant change to Google Docs that many of us missed when they big upgrade was announced a couple days ago. On May 3rd, Google will be temporarily disabling offline access in Google Docs and paving the way for something new.
"We are working hard to bring a new and improved HTML5-based offline option back to Google Docs," reads the official announcement. So yes, that does mean that Google Gears will soon be a thing of the past -- and it makes perfect sense. With HTML5 bringing Gears-like support for similar client-side abilities, Google has the opportunity to move to a standard and away from 3rd-party plug-in status.
After all, plug-ins can easily be blocked (as we've seen before with Firefox). HTML5 will provide restriction-free access to any offline functionality Google decides to build in to Docs regardless of platform -- as long as users run a compliant browser, of course...
...like Google Chrome, which could very well gain some new users when people find out their current browser doesn't fully support the reworked Offline access mode.
It's not too much of a stretch to call this is the beginning of the end for Gears.
Next stop: GMail?