Google Wave unveiled: a communication revolution?

Lars and Jens Rasmussen, brothers whose mapping company was bought by Google in 2004 and formed the basis for Google Maps, have become key figures in the development of Google Wave, a real-time collaboration tool and open-source protocol that people can use in their browsers and embed in their websites without cost.

Google Wave will not be controlled by Google but rather, according to CNet, "federated": anyone can set up a Wave server. And, because it is open source, anyone can add to the project to tailor it more to their own needs or the needs of specialised groups.

From the 80-minute video of the first public demonstration of Google Wave, held this past Thursday at the Google I/O Conference in San Francisco, we learn that a Wave is a "shared object" that combines elements of email, instant messaging, and other, newer web technologies to create a "hosted conversation". Although Wave looks new in many ways, and the combination of these elements is innovative and exciting, it will not seem alien to most of us.

It can work like a supercharged email and instant messaging system. For instance, your conversation partners (those who are part of the Wave you are "surfing" at the moment) automatically see your words appear on their browsers as you type (though this can be turned off to function more like traditional instant messaging if you want).


Image courtesy of CNet

Adding someone to the Wave gives them access to all that has taken place on that Wave beforehand (this is an improvement over email/IM conversations). Private conversations are of course possible as well, within a given Wave.

Given the real-time nature of Waves, it will be interesting to see how they would play out in actual use. One can imagine a Wave with ten or more people all communicating at once in real-time--a dizzying prospect!

People will be able to drag and drop photos directly into a Wave. Other participants in the Wave will see thumbnails before the photos are fully downloaded. As this ability is currently not part of HTML 5, Google will be submitting it in hopes that it will become part of the specification (and so not require a plug-in).

Text and images from one Wave can be copied over into a new one, say, if you want to carry on only parts of a conversation with a different group of participants.

Embedding Waves in websites should be as easy as embedding Google Maps is now, as the API will work similarly. For instance, putting a Wave in your blog will open it up to your site's visitors.

Google are hoping that developers will flock to Wave, giving it the new features it will need to grow to meet the needs of consumers and business users alike.

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I think this could be very useful for collaboration in various random projects where the group members all have online access (which they of course normally do, and is the point of this service). I for one, and unlike many Neowinians it seems *shrug*, often want something more powerful than mail, wikis, etc, and this service seem to be better than the sum of its parts. :)

I can't tell for sure before having tried it out of course, but it sure looks promising! Mail/IM for the direct or semidirect and dynamic components, and a wiki for the more permanent aspects of project management. I can certainly see the idea and thinking behind this.

I, for one, like the concept of the Wave. What I have read about it for the last couple weeks made me a little skeptical, but when I watched the video and saw what it really was my views changed. Sure, it is basically just a combination of everything that we already have, but the combination results in something far better than each individual piece. Think about the web browser. It was fine and took us places around the world, but then someone started making plugins. Now our web browser will not only take us places around the world, but it will also correct our spelling, suggest places to go, store our passwords, and many more. Years ago these tasks were all accomplished by separate entities.
Probably what I like most about Wave is that it is open source and "federated". Google could have kept the code and concept to themselves, but they chose to make it available to everyone and every server. In the video they stated that probably the hardest part was to make it federated, as this requires new protocols and compatability with multiple servers.
The real-time update on the text may be annoying to some, but it's nothing new. Who remembers ICQ chat? While ICQ had separate windows for each member of the chat, Wave takes it a step further and leaves each chatters space open.
Everyone knows that Google makes their money from advertisments. I really don't care if Google can see every word that I type, just so long as they're not reading the context of my conversations. I don't think Google people are doing that. They have a bot that counts word occurrences, perhaps determines word usage, and adds the statistics to their database. Artificial intelligence is fascinating to most people, but when they speculate how it's being used now they get scared.

That's my 2 cents...

BTW: I am a nerdy geek who works in business communication as a profession. I work on business telephone systems now during the day, while I attend University of Phoenix Online in my free time. My goal is to make IP communication easier for everyone, even if they don't know how to use computers.

This project just doesn't make any sense to me. It doesn't really fill a need that isn't already cluttered with options, and now I have to host it and maintain it? It all just seems very ill-conceived...

just looks confusing :S ... and jumbled together, if this is the future i really don't want a part of it lol... that and im kind of a private person

I'm surprised there isn't any "Twitter copy!!" comments, just so you know, this, Wave, was started 2years ago as you can hear it in the presentation, but some people just don't give a **** =]

What I'd like is to separate users into groups talking about the content, and create separate localised content for those groups. Not everyone needs to see everything that everyone else says

Given the real-time nature of Waves, it will be interesting to see how they would play out in actual use. One can imagine a Wave with ten or more people all communicating at once in real-time--a dizzying prospect!

you mean like (wait for it) an IRC chatroom? yes, very dizzying concept, I'm overwhelmed

I think it has potential. Have to wait and see how it works in the real world, and if it takes off (with normal people, not just geeks)

I for one love it, and will be setting up Wave groups in the classroom as soon as I get it. Great for idea processing and synthesis!

another way for google to collect more personal information from us; im sure that there will be lots of people who give them their lifes without conscience :P

I think you're ignoring the "anyone can set up a wave server" and the open protocols part (http://www.waveprotocol.org/). You don't have to give up a shred of info to Google if you run your own server or use a third-party wave service (think Acme Wave, or NeoWave).

Indeed. Everything they engineer looks like it came from the 1980's with this infantile interface model.

This is where MS is really beating the pants off them with Aero, etc. I know it's just "eye-candy" but that's what brings in the younger users.

For example, the iPhone is a VERY successful style over substance lesson.

excalpius said,
Indeed. Everything they engineer looks like it came from the 1980's with this infantile interface model.

This is where MS is really beating the pants off them with Aero, etc. I know it's just "eye-candy" but that's what brings in the younger users.

MS uses even worse shades of blue in their toolbars. I taught myself how to make msstyles specifically to rid myself of those ugly blue toolbars.

http://geoken.deviantart.com/art/x7-for-Windows-7-110955942

andrewbares said,
Well Microsoft at least improved. Vista has none of that ugly blue. Google is still sticking to those ulgy themes.

Look at the theme I linked above. It's a Win 7 theme who's only purpose is to scour the ugly blue toolbars so I can use Firefox without developing cataracts.

Antaris said,
I can't stand Google's crayon style colour schems :S

I'm sure it is all very customizable to whatever style your heart desires.

I'm probably alone in this thought, but I don't see a problem with the current fragmented setup we have for communication. There are some complications with it and the lack of seamless access can be a problem at times, but by and large I think we are best served by that fragmentation. Where it is no longer feasible to keep them seperate, in businesses, there is a need to keep the information better protected.

Each of the communication methods Google is aiming to make "better", IM; Email; and Document Sharing, are already best served in their respective mediums. If I need document sharing for my business uses I'm sure to be using MS Sharepoint or a similar setup allowing easy collaboration with my co-workers. For E-Mail I'm able to access it anywhere via my mobile phone or at my desktop with no real barriers. For a business, using a setup like Microsoft Office System (Sharepoint & Groove, among others) allows seamless integration of all of these (+IM and Phone) while keeping it all internal. Protecting company secrets and ensuring legal compliance (Sarbanes & Oxley, among other laws).

So, this product has to be aimed at consumers. It doesn't seem to hold the same social prowess as Facebook or Flicker. For the general consumer it seems too cluttered...

I'm probably overly skeptical as I seem to be often, but I just don't see where this product is actually useful.

But I don't think Google aims to make "useful" products as much as they aim to make products that allow them to gleam more information about individuals.

The point is that the concept of email ignores all the benefits the internet provides is.

Ignoring everything else (ie your clearly stated google biases) does an email conversation as a single shared object not seem more logical than an email conversation as a series of separate objects tied together via arbitrary criteria (the subject; which can frequently change in a conversation) and referring back to other parts of the conversation in varying ways?

Looks confusing and an immense waste of bandwidth. Live stream of people's text? First feature I'm turning off. without a centralized plugin system, the additions to it are simply going to get cluttered.

billyea said,
Looks confusing and an immense waste of bandwidth. Live stream of people's text? First feature I'm turning off. without a centralized plugin system, the additions to it are simply going to get cluttered.

Doesn't resending hundreds of lines of text to add a couple of words waste more bandwidth than only sending those words?

geoken said,
Doesn't resending hundreds of lines of text to add a couple of words waste more bandwidth than only sending those words?

Exactly my point. Resending the same line over and over, in almost real-time, just with a new character or so wastes more bandwidth.
Have 10 or more people in a stream and you're basically using an MMORPG worth of bandwidth.

billyea said,
Exactly my point. Resending the same line over and over, in almost real-time, just with a new character or so wastes more bandwidth.
Have 10 or more people in a stream and you're basically using an MMORPG worth of bandwidth.

Why would the same line of text be resent over and over again? You realize it's possible to send only the single character and append it to the existing text via js.