Gmail Now Available Offline

January 28th, 2009 at 12:00 am

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Google mail or Gmail is going offline and now it’s not like the last time where it did literally conk out and go offline.  This time, Gmail is going to be available to its users with or without an internet connection.

A new experimental feature  from Google Labs uses Google Gears to let users access Google Mail offline.  They explain it in a blog post.

Gmail uses Gears to download a local cache of your mail. As long as you’re connected to the network, that cache is synchronized with Gmail’s servers. When you lose your connection, Gmail automatically switches to offline mode, and uses the data stored on your computer’s hard drive instead of the information sent across the network. You can read messages, star and label them, and do all of the things you’re used to doing while reading your webmail online. Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection. And if you’re on an unreliable or slow connection (like when you’re "borrowing" your neighbor’s wireless), you can choose to use "flaky connection mode," which is somewhere in between: it uses the local cache as if you were disconnected, but still synchronizes your mail with the server in the background. Our goal is to provide nearly the same browser-based Gmail experience whether you’re using the data cached on your computer or talking directly to the server.

But like I said it’s still an experimental feature and the possibility of it failing is a bit higher than full fledged features on Gmail.   Nonetheless it’s working properly most of the time and having a feature like this would definitely be bring Gmail closer to a PC-based email client like Outlook.

It’s too bad that emailing is entirely impossible without an internet connection but this is probably the next best thing to come to a web based email product.  I guess it’s asking a bit too much from Google to sync and delete email accounts when the user is accessing it from different computers.

One question I have though, how much data can one’s email account contain so that it can be synchronized from Google’s servers in a jiffy?