When Google Wave was announced earlier this year, I knew I had to somehow be a part of it. The concept of working together on things online at the same time with this new media was appealing to say the least. Naturally, once it was possible to do so I requested an invite to this great experiment called Google Wave.
Quite a bit has already been written about Google Wave and I imagine that quite a bit more will be written before Google’s latest experiment becomes available to the masses of the Internet. As of right now, Google Wave is in a “preview” stage, whatever that means. I’m guessing this is the stage before the open beta that GMail went through for a couple of years. Obviously, it’s not open to the general public at this point so that must be what it means.
For those of you wondering what Google Wave really is, here’s a short explanation from Wikipedia
Google Wave is “a personal communication and collaboration tool” announced by Google at the Google I/O conference on May 27, 2009. It is a web-based service,computing platform, and communications protocol designed to merge e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking. It has a strong collaborative and real-time focus supported by extensions that can provide, for example, robust spelling/grammar checking, automated translation between 40 languages, and numerous other extensions. Initially released only to developers, a “preview release” of Google Wave has been extended to about 600,000 users since September 30, 2009, with the initial 100,000 users each allowed to invite up to eight additional users.
So, essentially it does everything you do on the web all at once, in one place. Well, maybe not quite but as you can see in the above quote, Google Wave is definitely aiming to become the new standard of communication and collaboration.
How does it work?
If you’re a user of Gmail, in a way you already have a sneak peek of Google Wave. Just as a series of emails and replies between you and another party are gathered together in one place and sorted almost as if it was a discussion on IM, Google Wave does this but it takes it to the next level. Instead of having to post replies as they are received, you can post replies anytime, your typing is seen in real time if the other party is online and you can edit other content from previous entries. Basically, the typical email conversation in Gmail makes up your Wave in Google Wave.
Your inbox consists of Waves as opposed to emails, with notifications of new blips (entries). You can invite other people to your waves and collaborate within the Wave. So, the Wave itself can be just a conversation, like IM, or it can be editing of documents, policies etc. It could also be a wiki or even a collaborative novel (several of these exists).
In addition, there are gadgets and extensions available and under development so you can easily add things like a MSN IM Wave (no need to use a MSN client anymore) or a Twitter Wave or maybe just a map with your house on it so that the friends you invited for dinner can find your house. You can also add yes/no/maybe surveys, to-do lists, mindmaps and more.
Does it work?
Obviously, that’s the question everyone will ask. First of all, it’s obvious this product is still in a preview stage. There is plenty of stuff that still needs to be fixed, tuned, added and so on. Many gadgets, extensions and bots just don’t work. However, the basic concept is there and it works.
Let’s use instant messaging as an example. The rest of my immediately family lives on the other side of the planet. The only time where we can really chat, talk or video conference at a good hour is late at night or early in the morning. Naturally, this is not always convenient because it may very well happen that one party is sleeping. With Google Wave, this doesn’t matter anymore. With Google Wave, you can being a conversation that’s always there. You can invite people in, you can start a conversation, whether it’s live or not, and continue for days. There’s no pressure to have to be up and online at the same time. Sure, your conversation may take longer but at least you have it. For me, that’s a pretty important thing.
Another example is a small book project I’m working on with a couple of other people. We’re gathering stories, putting them together into one big book of sorts so that it later can be shared with others. Before Google Wave, collaborating in real time could be a bit cumbersome and although Google Docs allow for this, it wasn’t quite ideal for us. So, here we are, working on a project all together on Google Wave.
So, the idea behind Google Wave is definitely interesting and I’m curious to see how it could be deployed in a business environment. However, that’s for the future, I imagine, once Wave is out of preview and beta.
Will Google Wave revolutionize how we communicate? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve found it to be more interesting than email, more exciting than discussion forums and more useful than IM.
The one thing I can see happen is that the political realm will jump on this bandwagon real quick. While Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube quickly have become political tools, I have no doubt that before you know it, Google Wave will be invaded by political agents from both parties here in the USA and elsewhere. In fact, there are already Waves for both major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats. There is a pretty lengthy wave about the current health care debate and numerous other things.
I think Google Wave is here to stay.