HTML5 and a number of modern web technologies promise to make websites and web apps as powerful as native applications. They're not quite there, but they're getting close, one piece of the puzzle at the time. One great step forward is coming soon, when Google will enable offline access for a number of its applications in supported browsers
During the second day keynote of the Google I/O 2011 developer conference, Google revealed that offline support for several of its most popular apps is coming this summer and that it is in testing already internally.
Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar will all be usable without internet connectivity, enabling people to get work done even if they're in an area with no WiFi or 3G connections, or during a flight and so on.
For example, users can browse their emails and even compose new ones offline and then send them when they have internet access. Or they can get started on a presentation which will be saved locally and updated to the cloud when possible.
All of this is possible because of technologies included in HTML5, like local storage. The feature is already used by numerous applications, plenty from the Chrome Web Store for example, however, Google has taken its time before enabling offline support, to make sure that the technology is ready and that its implementation works for the millions of people using Google apps.
Google has actually had offline support in Gmail and other apps before, but it relied on Gears, a proprietary technology that's been deprecated. In fact, the very latest Google Chrome 12 beta removed support for Gears entirely.
Now, Google is ready to reintroduce offline support in the three apps mentioned and most likely in others in the future. Google hasn't set a specific date, but said that it should be sometime this summer.