Google Gears: the SOAP approach to Web app development

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I respect what Google’s trying to accomplish with Gears very much, and appreciate that they’re helping draw attention to the need to build out the client-side of the Web a bit more, and that they’re doing it with open source. They’ve nailed the what perfectly.

Then again, Web services nailed their requirements perfectly too.

I think the how of what Gears is doing is, frankly, misguided. There’s minimal reuse of existing Web technologies, and it’s overly imperative when it could be easily be far more declarative. Each of these issues raise the bar for the kinds of skills a Web developer needs. Not a good thing.

Interestingly, the Web services analogy doesn’t stop at the requirements. When I talk about “minimal reuse”, what I’m referring to is that the Web already has a mature and general API for accessing and manipulating local data-oriented services – the DOM – and no “gear” I’ve seen has yet to use it for data access. So instead of a Javascript GeoLocation object that might expose method calls such as getCurrentLocation() or getLockedSatellites(), why not make the object a DOM Node and treat the data contained within as a document? Something like;

<Location>
  <Current>45.234,-120.999</Current>
  <LockedSattelites>4</LockedSatellites>
</Location>

(or better yet perhaps, microformatted HTML – though there’s issues there)

Then you could use the DOM itself to get at those values, or perhaps even a CSS selector. Simple!. You even get events for free.

Why is it that the industry continues to overlook the value of reusing pervasively deployed generic abstractions, be they network oriented or local? It couldn’t be a case of NIH, because the DOM is unavoidable if you’re a Web dev. I guess it just didn’t occur to the them, though that doesn’t explain the push back.

dom, gears, google, javascript, web20

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