There is a fascinating transformation always taking place in computing. Mainframe computing relied on dumb terminals and then as clients became smarter, we started to migrate to client/server environments. Over time, news ways of working appeared and disappeared and more recently we have seen the hosted model become more important.
I have mentioned in the past that Google Gears allows hosted applications the ability to run when there is no Internet access. It seems now that Gears as it is now known is being used to help websites offload processing to local computers.
In fact, MySpace will now use Gears to enable message sorting and searching — all powered by the local PC. As this press release and TechCrunch point out, you won’t be able to use the application offline as of yet but this new addition shows that very popular sites can now reduce the processing burden on their servers by bringing client PCs into the mix.
This sort of functionality could have been achieved without Gears but having Google provide the middleware makes sense as you reduce costs and can take advantage of further innovations by the search giant.
So where does this innovation lead us? There are a few points worth noting. The first is that we will see an increased reliance on local computers for data storage. This comes with security risk and I expect to hear more about this later.
I also believe PCs may become a dumping ground for Gears data that is no longer needed. Eventually we will need a Gear Sweeper service to wipe out data we longer need contained in far-reaching directories on our computers.
I have always been a fan of Gears and this relatively new use for the software is only the beginning. I am waiting for p2p cloud computing projects powered by Gears and other such projects which will take advantage of the tremendous amount of unused processing power available on the worlds’ computers.
At a more basic level we should all understand that using Gears will enable developers to harness local resources to make web programs much more software-like. In other words, using AJAX for the interface and Gears for database manipulation, caching and thread pool management/execution, a web application may be strikingly similar to a local program.
I don’t expect movie production to be moving to a hosted model soon but for everyday applications — especially business apps, we can expect the innovation to start increasing at a rapid clip.
This of course is all good news and signals yet another shift in the world of computing.