The other day, Alex said, "Those Gears cats are gonna save the world." I said, "They're not going to save my world. Not if they can't get me to install Gears."
When he wanted to know why I wouldn't install it, I said, "I don't know what it does! Maybe I'd feel better if it were, you know, just a Firefox extension."
He said, "That's exactly what it is."
Oh. Huh. I didn't realize.
See, the thing is, nowhere on the Gears install page does it say "This is a Firefox extension." In fact, the word "extension" doesn't appear anywhere on the page. That whole "Improving Your Web Browser" thing is pretty vague, and the subtext seems to be "Don't worry your pretty little head about the details. Just install this thing."
They could make it better by having one of those nice "Add to Firefox" buttons that links to an .xpi, like on the Firefox Add-ons site. Oh, you want me to accept an EULA first? Fine, okay, you can do that, too; just make it abundantly clear to me that I'm installing a browser extension.
Now, if I dig into the developer API FAQ, I find a more clear explanation of what it is, and they actually use the word "extension" there. Yay! They also say that it's currently a "developers' release" and "not yet intended for general use", so I shouldn't expect the language on the install page to be especially polished. But if it's not intended for general use, then why use vague, gloss-over language?
How about something like "Gears is an open-source browser extension that extends the functionality of web applications like Google Reader, Google Docs, and a growing list of third-party applications such as...". I think most of the surly skeptics web developers I know would appreciate that more than "Gears is an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser".
Anyway, I should try to chat with a Gears person at OSCON. Because I really do want to save the world. (Locally. In a fully-searchable database.)