Jul 042008

WordPress.com, the commercial blog hosting company that uses blog software from WordPress.org, is adding Google Gears support to their hosted blog service. Initially, this will only speed up use of the blog administration pages by caching the scripts and images locally. 

This isn’t really the best use of Gears, since the browser will cache content as it’ is accessed, but it’s a reasonable first step.  Clearly the longer term goal (in the upcoming WordPress 2.6 release?) is to support blog post editing and administration while offline.  I imagine this prequel to full offline mode benefits WordPress.com (by reducing server traffic) more than end users. 

Some of the comments on the WP.com blog post indicate little or no noticable performance boost for the end user.  If you have a fast Internet connection, that’s probably going to be the case. It sounds like what WP.com is using Gears for (for now) is to prefetch the admin scripts, pages, and images to the local cache. WP.com bloggers who would see the greatest performance improvement would be those on a slow or crowded Internet connection.

I was surprised to see on other blog posts on this news comments expressing fear of “sending all their data to Google” and the like.  That’s not what Gears does. Gears is a browser plugin to enable a web site (wp.com) to store data on the client.  None of your WP.com data should ever be sent to Google, period. I don’t think WP.com even has to have a reference to Google to get the Gears JavaScript – the Gears JS code can be completely hosted on the WP.com server.

Some will raise the concern “What if Google embeds a trojan horse in the Gears code?”  Well, it’s open sourced so somebody will see it if there is such a thing, so this shouldn’t be a real concern.

There is no issue of Google getting access to WP.com blog data as a result of using Gears.