It certainly was a big deal a few years ago when Google first announced their Gears platform for web browsing. But the truth is that it was only a stopgap for what is to be the future: HTML5. Well, finally the time has come for HTML5 to shine, as recent developments have pushed it into the forefront for a more interactive web experience.
Basically Gears is a bridge between the browser and the native computing system. With HTML5, this type of flexibility is coded right in with web development. That benefits users because it provides for simplicity along with more flexibility in terms of development. Some things that you may use Gears for today, such as offline storage to all for a faster experience or just to have files when you’re not connected, can be done even easier with HTML5. Plus, the majority of browsers now support HTML5 unlike when Gears was announced back in 2007.
The official Gears blog had an update last week, explaining why there has been a lack of posts lately. No more updates to Gears, however until everything is completely moved over to HTML5 (which could be a while) support will continue. It’s also no coincidence that on the same day of that post it was announced that Google was finalizing its purchase of On2 Media for $124.6 million.
That’s because the video technology that On2 has developed fits well within what Google is trying to do with YouTube. Although some people like to complain about the lack of innovation sine Google purchased YouTube, they just recently have started a HTML5 beta on the site, and I’m sure that you can expect to see more interesting developments now that On2 is in the fold. That is unless Google bought On2 just to kill it, which seems doubtful.
One of the big things to watch for: video compression standards. On2 has a variety of these proprietary formats, and so it is not a stretch to expect HTML5 paired with one of them, namely called V8 VP8, to become the standard for Chrome and especially on YouTube, which currently uses a licensed technology called H.264 that works with Adobe’s Flash Player. There has been a call for On2 to make VP8 open source by some developers, and we’ll see what happens with that.
So what is the underlying problem with H.264 and Flash? Well, both of them have been around for a while with little relative progress in their technology. That’s not going to work too well in the near future with devices becoming ever smaller and portable running ARM processors.
You can check out a video comparison between H264 and VP8 from On2′s website right here if you’re interested.