Google Wave – Making a Spash

Google Wave – Making a Spash

Google has recently announced their latest innovation, Google Wave.  This online tool for real-time communication and collaboration can be both a conversation and a document.  People can discuss and work together using rich text, photos, videos, maps, etc.  This is the next generation of communication!

The demo, though long, running over an hour and twenty minutes, provides a helpful introduction to the new features.  And with nearly 5 million views, Google Wave is clearly making quite a splash.  They describe it as email of the future.  It is astonishing that email, invented over 40 years ago is still our primary means of communication.  Google Wave is essentially what email would look like if it had been invented today.

Google Wave allows for both discussion and collaboration in one.  Waves contain a complete trail of multimedia messages hosted on a central server.  Participants sharing a wave can be added or removed at any point and can reply or edit content anywhere in the message at any time.  For a recently added participant, these conversations may be hard to follow, but Google has accounted for that with its playback feature.  This allows participants to rewind the conversation and see the order in which a wave was edited, replies were posted, and who was responsible for which parts of the wave, thereby catching new participants up to speed on the thread.

Waves are like live conversations.  All edits and comments are seen real-time, letter by letter, as they are typed by participants, though this feature may be disabled depending on preferences.  If several participants are in the same wave at the same time, the conversation transitions to act more like an instant message.  If users are not online simultaneously, the wave acts more like an email, accessible at a later time.  This constant shift is a creative way to transition between users’ communication needs.  Additionally, while each wave can be embedded elsewhere, like on a blog, there is only ever one copy of the wave, so any time you make changes in your inbox, those changes will be reflected everywhere else the wave is present.

A recent BusinessWeek article asks, Will Google’s Wave Replace E-Mail—and Facebook?  Google hopes that Wave, once it’s more available, will replace other communication tools like e-mail, IM, and social networking sites.  Google’s even developing apps and making them available through an online marketplace.  Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and multiplayer gaming apps have already been developed by outside programmers and tested with Wave.  What’s great about these apps is their compatibility.  Unlike Apple, whose apps only work on Apple machines, Google apps would work on a variety of systems including laptops, web-enabled TV, and smartphones.

So what’s the next step?  How will competitors react?  Will the makers of the communication tools that risk becoming obsolete rise to the occasion and integrate their service with other functions?  According to Lars Rasmussen, the Google software engineering manager of the team that created Wave, Google foresees other companies building their own versions and then making them all compatible so that users can communicate with one another no matter what service their using.

This is the future  of Internet communication, but is it too complex to be readily accepted?  Are businesses too set in their ways to adopt this new technology or will it mainly be a personal tool?  Much anticipation has developed since the Google Wave announcement on May 27, 2009 at the Google I/O Conference, and we’re all eagerly awaiting the official launch to get our hands dirty and test its usability ourselves!


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