The company is trying to move away from that approach, Native Client notwithstanding, for example with the deprecation of Google Gears.
The technology was deprecated more than a year ago, but it was still supported in Chrome and via the existing Gears plugins for other browsers. With Chrome 12 though, Gears support is gone.
Chrome 12 is in beta now, but Chrome 11 which is widely used still supports Gears. As far as most users are concerned, Gears was mostly useful for offline support in web apps, notably in Gmail and Google Docs.
A major revamp of the Docs editors and infrastructure dropped support for Gears-based offline access a year ago. At the time, the team said it was working on adding HTML5-based offline support.
Gmail though continued to work, until last week that is, when Google decided to drop support for Gears in Gmail as well, but only if you're using Google Chrome. This means that, as of 24 of May, Chrome users won't be able to access the offline feature anymore.
What's strange is that this affects all Chrome users, even versions that still have Gears built-in. At the same time, users of the older Firefox 3.6 or Internet Explorer 8 with the Gears plugin installed, will still be able to access Gmail offline.
"As we move the Gmail Offline capability to a Chrome web app, we have deprecated the Google Gears-based Gmail Offline. This coincides with the version 12 release of the Google Chrome browser which no longer supports Gears," Google explained.
"As a result, Google Gears-based Gmail Offline does not with the Chrome browser as of Tuesday May 24, 2011. Google Gears-based Gmail Offline will continue to work in versions of Internet Explorer 8 and Mozilla Firefox versions 3.6," it added.
It's a bit of a strange move since it wasn't really needed. When Chrome 12 hits the stable channel, everyone will be updated so support for offline features in Gmail based on Gears for Chrome becomes moot.
What's more, Google says support for offline features based on HTML5 technologies is coming in the next few weeks, or "summer 2011" for a broader time frame, so it may have been able to make the switch without affecting users.