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The future of offline: HTML5 and web standards

Friday, April 16, 2010 by Emily Boyd

We're big fans of offline web apps at Remember The Milk; when Google Gears was released in 2007, to say that we were excited would be an understatement. We spent a caffeine-fuelled weekend frantically coding to make Remember The Milk the first web app after Google Reader to work offline with Gears.

Almost three years on, it's awesome to see the progress with web standards like HTML5 that will make it possible for web apps to work offline without a browser plug-in. Considering this progress, Google is encouraging the migration to HTML5, and has announced that Gears will no longer be actively developed.

What does this mean for Remember The Milk?

Well, we'll be continuing our support for offline access with Gears in the meantime, but our plan for the future is to migrate entirely to standards-based offline support.

What's needed to make this possible?

We need browsers to provide web database APIs! Basically, these APIs allow us to create your own personal Remember The Milk database that's stored by your browser, and that remains accessible when you're offline.

The various browser makers are at different stages with their support for web database APIs — this next bit is for those of you who've been asking if it's possible to have standards-based offline support for your favourite browser. :)

Where are the browsers at?

Google Chrome and Safari are both already implementing the Web SQL Database API specification (Google Chrome in its developer preview, Safari in its stable release). We've been using the developer preview internally while experimenting with standards-based offline support, and we're really excited about the possibilities for offline access in Google Chrome.

Both Microsoft and Mozilla support the alternative Indexed Database API specification, so we're expecting an implementation of this API to be available in IE and Firefox at some stage in the future; we need to wait until that's available before we can bring offline support (without Gears) for Remember The Milk to these browsers.

We're looking forward to seeing what will be possible in browsers in the future, and bringing you standards-based offline support as soon as we can!

Posted in: New Features & Updates