Google is to follow little known offline search engine Webaroo in offering users the ability to search the web when they are away from an internet connection.

Called Google Gears, the new technology would allow surfers to continue searching on planes, trains, in the car or even a remote desert island as well as use web services like email, online calendars or news readers whether online, intermittently connected to the Web or completely offline.

"The Web is great but it doesn't work very well when you don't have a Web connection", Jeff Huber, Google's vice president of engineering, said in an interview to Reuters. "Gears addresses a functional gap on the Web."

Google plans to make the Gears technology available for free as "open source" software, meaning other developers are free to use and enhance the software in their own products.

Webaroo launched a similar series last year which works by storing up pages 10 links deep from everypage of the most popular pages online. Users can then "Download the Web" to a device to surf when offline.

Available free, the new search engine takes the most relevant parts of the web and makes it downloadable in bite-sized chunks. You can get Pocket-lint one level down for a minuscule 4MB for example.

To get users started the company plans to offer "web packs" on particular subjects, such as news, World Cup 2006, London and other major cities worldwide, each of which contains hundreds of thousands of relevant web pages on the topic, identified by Webaroo's unique algorithms.