Google Gears at WordPress.com

If your blog is hosted at WordPress.com, you might have noticed a link on your blog’s dashboard (top right): Speed Up. If you click on it, you’ll find that it asks you about Google Gears. It hasn’t been a secret that Gears support is coming to WordPress.

But the average WordPress.com blogger didn’t know that, and probably didn’t know what Google Gears is. The Gears Help Center isn’t very helpful. For example, it tells us that “Gears is a plug-in that extends your browser to create a richer platform for web applications” but doesn’t tell us why we’d want to enable it for our blogs.

Let’s try to clear a few things up. Some of the following comes from the support forum topic on Gears that was started today.

  • Gears is a browser plugin. If the plugin hasn’t been implemented for browser and version you’re running, you simply won’t see “Speed Up” on your dash. From this point on, I’ll assue that you do see SU.
  • If you click on SU, you’ll be asked it you want to get the browser plugin. You don’t have to.
  • Once you have the plugin, you’ll be asked if you want to enable it for use with WordPress. By the way, the question could be better worded. It’s really asking if you want to enable it for use with that particular WordPress.com blog.
  • If you say yes to enabling Gears, it will download some stuff from the blog to your machine.
  • Because you have a local copy of said stuff, the amount of back-and-forth with the WordPress.com server will be reduced. That’s why the “Speed Up” was chosen as the text you click on to use Gears.
  • When Gears first came out, about a year ago, it was widely described in terms of offline access. Once you have a local copy of stuff, you can use that copy when the server isn’t available, including when you have no web access.

In closing, it’s worth emphasizing that Gears is opt-in. In particular, WordPress.com will not automatically add the Gears plugin to your browser. Neither will it stop working if there is no plugin for your browser.