Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Google Wave: Redefiniing Communication

In May, at the Google I/O developer's conference, Google announced its new project: Wave.

Created by many of the same team members that developed the highly successful Google Maps, the preview of the service itself on Thursday was quite compelling, resulting in a rare standing ovation at a tech conference.

Its egalitarian and federation-friendly design is intended to create an entire open ecosystem for communication and collaboration that Google is not-so-modestly touting as the reinvention of digital interaction circa 2009.

Basically the idea is rather than using electronic tools to emulate analog communication methods, we should use the strengths we already have and do things you simply can't do in the analog world. Create a "wave," add people to it, and edit and collaborate. View all the collaboration in close to real time, and then view the history and evolution in "playback" mode.

Google has launched many communication services since its inception including Gmail, Gtalk, Google Docs to name just three, yet none of these have had such obvious business utility or attempted to reinvent the collaborative process from the ground-up.

"A Wave is a single shared space where two or more users can exchange real time dialogue, photos, videos, maps and documents in what we call a Wave. Everyone can reply to a Wave, people can come and go and you can drag and drop information from all over the web."

In Google's own words, Wave will "try out some new ideas" such as concurrent rich text editing – you'll be able to see on your screen almost instantly, letter-by-letter, what your fellow collaborators are typing into a message or document in a wave, unlike in instant messaging where you need to wait to see what someone is typing. (If you don't like this, there is a draft mode.)

Google is planning to open source Google Wave in the coming months while any developer can build extensions to Google Wave using open APIs.

"The way we think about Wave is that it's a communication system, a productivity tool as well where you can produce content but there's a very rich set of APIs that come with the tool and that of course is why we're releasing it to developers first," explains Lars Rasmussen, Software Engineering Manager.

Google Wave is rather confusingly a product, a platform, and a protocol. Meaning that you can use Google Wave by itself or write your own application that incorporates or extends Google Wave, and make tools that use Google Wave interoperable. The project is only open to developers right now, but you can sign up to be notified when they open the project to users.

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