Google takes Gmail off the cloud

The line between cloud-based and desktop applications seems to keep blurring. This time, Google has introduced an experimental feature that allows Gmail to work offline—search and all. Best of all, the feature synchronizes changes you made while offline when you get back on the Internet.

Offline Gmail relies on the Gears browser extension, which only works in Firefox and Internet Explorer for Windows, for the time being. Essentially, the tool downloads a “local cache” of your e-mail, which it keeps updated whenever you’re online:

Since this is an experimental feature still, you’ll find it in the Google Labs tab of Gmail’s settings page. Once you enable offline Gmail, you’ll be able to go online and offline by clicking an icon in the upper right corner next to your user name.

Comments closed
    • miken
    • 11 years ago

    E-mail on my local hard drive? What will they think of next? Wait, this reminds me of some software I heard about a long time ago… what did they call it… oh yeah, every e-mail client app ever written.

      • d2brothe
      • 11 years ago

      Despite your sarcasm, I do hope you see the use of this feature…

        • malicious
        • 11 years ago

        With POP access already available for Gmail, I sure don’t see much point in this so please enlighten the rest of us.

    • Draxo
    • 11 years ago

    So you are using gmail beta, to store your msgs on gmail, and you worry about security?

    that is funny

      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      I don’t use gmail. 😛
      and I always worry about security!

    • gtoulouzas
    • 11 years ago

    Neither do I.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 11 years ago

    I think your comma is wrong. Shouldn’t it be after Windows?

    which only works in Firefox and Internet Explorer for Windows for, the time being.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 years ago

      way to make me look like a dummy correcting you where you’re already right! :p

        • eitje
        • 11 years ago

        don’t worry, dude. I saw it, too.

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    I wonder what kind of encryption policy Gears uses on that local cache.

    Can someone with Gmail enable this and check their local cache:
    §[<http://gears.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=79850&topic=13192<]§ I would really appreciate it if maybe even you could look into this, Cyril?

      • d2brothe
      • 11 years ago

      No encryption of any real kind is used, I don’t believe. The problem with encrypting something on your local drive is you must enter a password. The local machine can’t remember the password in any form or its pointless, and I don’t believe gears remembers your password.

      The reason is simply this, if your machine is storing the data, then someone must have physical access to your machine. But if your machine also stores the password (and decryption key) for that data, the encryption does nothing. The only exception to this, I believe, is the TPM chips which can somehow securely store a password, that is not accessible without a bootup password. (Of course, you still need a password, but its a secure way to store the decryption key). Of course, if they manage to get your machine while its turned on, all bets are off anyways.

        • FireGryphon
        • 11 years ago

        The potential security issues with this are interesting. It’s not available to me yet (US) so I can’t check it out.

      • cygnus1
      • 11 years ago

      i would love to try, i double checked to make sure gears was installed and it is, but i don’t see the offline option on the labs page in my gmail.

        • gtoulouzas
        • 11 years ago

        I can’t find it either! Where is it?

      • reynolm
      • 11 years ago

      Encrypt your hard drive and you’ve eliminated the issue, no?
      Given the state of seizure laws these days, it’s probably a good policy to encrypt everything anyway.

        • indeego
        • 11 years ago

        Encrypting your local drive does nothing about encrypting the data in memory, or during transport, or keystroke capture, software capture, dns redirect or other ways of capturing data.

        If you encrypt your data, typically a court order is all it takes to unencrypt it, which an attorney will need to weigh whether or not to comply. In some countries like U.K., failing to comply with providing password is a criminal offense.

        I am not a lawyer. I have worked with forensic companies before, and they have mentioned that encryption has rarely been an issue in the states because during discovery the passwords were revealed.

        I have no evidence, but I’m paranoid enough to think that if the NSA can tap all our phones and e-mail, that they probably have the technology to break most public encryption models out there anywayg{<.<}g

      • muyuubyou
      • 11 years ago

      Two words: outlook mailboxes.

      Or thunderbird mailboxes for that matter.

    • JdL
    • 11 years ago

    Cyril: It should work in Chrome too. Chrome has Gears built in.

      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      looks like someone got Gears working for Safari a while back, too:
      §[<http://gearsblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/gears-for-safari.html<]§

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 11 years ago

      I was wondering about that too.

        • Kulith
        • 11 years ago

        yea I was going to say… why wouldn’t it work on googles own browser.

    • pikaporeon
    • 11 years ago

    maybe one day it will be out of beta.

      • Xenolith
      • 11 years ago

      It is in beta because then they don’t have to guarantee up time and other potential libelous issues. Gmail will be in beta for the foreseeable future.

        • ludi
        • 11 years ago

        Thinkyameant “liability”. Libel is a different class of offense 😉

          • Xenolith
          • 11 years ago

          Yep, thanks. Keep getting that mixed up.

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