The browser plug-in prompts the user when they visit a website that supports the technology which is currently limited to Google Reader, an online feed reader.
When the user clicks on a small icon, the server starts downloading information to the user's hard drive and puts the service in offline mode. The user can then disconnect from the web and continue to use the service.
All data is synchronised when the connection is re-established, but users are required to keep the browser window open. The service cannot be opened without an internet connection.
Google is not the first to allow online services to function offline. Adobe offers the functionality as part of its Apollo platform for rich internet applications, while the Dojo open source Ajax toolkit unveiled a beta of Dojo Offline last month.
By providing its technology as an open source standard, Google is positioning Google Gears as the standard for adding offline capabilities to online services.
The beta of Google Gears is available as free download for Windows, OS X and Linux from the Google Gears website.
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