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.
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.