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Nov 12

Gmail video lands; What if it was a Gear?

Gears, Google, Tech with tags: Add comments

By blurring the boundary between Ajax and RIA, Google has found a way to grow into the Mesh that Microsoft is close to delivering from IT outward. In many ways, this strategy is supportive of the new Microsoft as much as it is disruptive of the old. Just as Microsoft can’t be stopped from executing on its cloud strategy in the enterprise, neither can Google from its base in the user cloud. Where the two platforms meet in the middle looks a lot like a hybrid of iTunes and Office.

That is from Steve Gillmor as he compares video chat with Silverlite :)

You can look at this as some amazing plan, or maybe a Gmail chat team that thought video would be a natural progression?

One key aspect of the new Gmail chat is mentioned as part of the launch blog post:

We designed this feature using Internet standards such as XMPP, RTP, and H.264, which means that third-party applications and networks can choose to interoperate with Gmail voice and video chat.

Once again, standards lead the way for a Google team. This shows how this can be so much more than just an end user feature.

Let’s do a thought experiment: What if?

  • This was not yet another plugin (a la Lively 3D), but rather just a Gear? Something that could be reused by developers right away so they could add video and audio in a way that reaches many end users, using standards
  • And what if it used the audio and video HTML 5 tags? Chrome could implement them, and Gears could give us a shim to at least give us the APIs, if not more. Of course, other browsers have implementations too!

Google’s “Silverlite” is already here: Gears. If we all kept building on that we could do so much. Add the ability to load and update seperate Gears (modules) so in this case people would have gotten a video/audio module update to their existing plugin.

This is important

Video is huge, and is exploding. It is something that the Open Web doesn’t have a good answer for yet, and we need one. Right now you have to use Flash or Silverlight, and I would prefer more choice ;)

First we need to get players and codecs out there. The video/audio tags are fine, but what can they play? Apps such as Gmail video could deploy that technology. Then the next step is in tooling. How do we plug in to the current video development process? How do we reach the creative types? Without the toolchain, the technology won’t matter.

Can we get from here to there?

13 Responses to “Gmail video lands; What if it was a Gear?”

  1. Edwin Khodabakchian Says:

    Question: can a gear have a UI aspect? I though gears were faceless API/functionality. No?

  2. Rafael C.P. Says:

    Edwin, you’re right, it just exposes an API. But maybe that API could have some function to attach a video source to a HTML element and make it behave like an Video tag. Actually I don’t know if Gears has enough access to browser internals to track the element position and show a video inside it.

  3. Rafael C.P. Says:

    Ah! Just remembered. It could continuously send image data to a Canvas tag context, after downloading and decoding it. Problem solved! =)

  4. Daniel Shaw Says:

    Maybe they thought they could get better penetration with it being separate. Video (and on the Mac, audio) is something that I’ve wanted for some time. By having it a distinct service they don’t have to worry about people turning away when they are directed to Gears instead of THE Gmail video plugin.

    That said, I totally agree that it would be better placed as a module inside Gears. I personally want less not more plugins.

  5. dion Says:


    You could use the video/audio support in new browsers, and even *shock horror* shim and have it work in Flash for those that don’t support that yet, but give the same programmatic API :)


    They could brand it to look like the Gmail plugin and people wouldn’t even have to know (not in a bad way…).



  6. Tiago Says:


  7. Sander Says:

    When downloading, I get this notice:
    “Gmail voice and video chat incorporates Vidyo technology which is covered under pending U.S. and foreign patent applications.”

    So I guess the plugin cannot be distributed with the open source Gears.

  8. Edwin Khodabakchian Says:

    Rafael, Dion: you would still need to have a way to manage the contact list and online/video enabled status too no? Rebuilding that part of the UI as part of every application seems hard. But you are right: this is the types of integration that next generation mashups need to enable. May be with some tooling support from Dion :-)

  9. thegeniusfiles Says:

    Ugh, patents. Let’s hope GOOG rethinks that issue. Open standards should be the way to go.. or can a patent be licensed as open source? Anyway, we need an API which can plug into as many apps as possible. Everyone benefits.

  10. sachin Says:

    “third-party applications and networks can choose to interoperate with Gmail voice and video chat. ” ….This is what I think is awesome feature.

  11. Stop Smoking Says:

    This is great! And video chat does not get any easier than that.

  12. Alyysa Says:

    Thanks for the great post, I started my career in nursing after finishing a associate degree in nursing from associate degree nursing schools

  13. preor Says:

    thank you

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