Google Wave! – by “David K”

Google’s Wave is the latest technology whose whole business plan depends on distributing the source code and having multiple developers work to improve and elaborate on the app beyond Google’s control.

Wave is Google’s proposed replacement for email, and it is a sort of combined Gmail, Gchat, Facebook, Google Docs, and Yahoo games.  The core unit is a “wave”, which is a topic many users can be invited to, inside which multiple threads can be started consisting of “blips”, like messages.  It’s more dynamic than just a forum, because all users work on all the content in real time, and can rearrange and restructure the whole wave, replacing it with a conclusion when a concensus is reached, or anything else.  Google stores the history so important information is not in danger of being lost in this way.  Here is a more in-depth explanation.

Google depends on third-party developers in 3 key ways.   First, the wave interface, like email, can support multiple implementations, so this will allow applications like Thunderbird to adapt to user preferences for how to represent the wave abstractions.  To this effect, Google has published the code for OT, its operation transformation framework, which is what allows all users to edit the wave concurrently, so that developers can match it with the high level of consistency it requires.

Second, Wave will support robots, bots which have the same privileges and status as users, so they can edit waves, and will allow users to do things like translate waves between languages in real time or interact with other businesses sites like twitter.  This can allow Wave to be used as a back-end for the business practices of other sites.

Finally, Wave will support a gadget system, so waves can include things like chess games, group piano collaboration, or working together making a route on a google map.  Developers can add whatever they like onto this to enable any kind of collaborative project.

One of Google’s biggest worries is that the OT protocol for editing simultaneously will be too complex for developers to be able to make their own functioning apps.  It’s offering as much support as possible for this and is going to open up the fully documented code for its own application shortly.  Another worry is that the interface itself will be too complicated, not just for companies to make implementations for, but for users to catch on to.

It’s a big question whether users will accept this as a replacement for email, or whether they’ll prefer the old stability linear nature of email.  Email and chat might be enough–I can’t see any way I’d really use google Wave at the moment.  But often the uses of a program expand beyond what it was originally intended for, and maybe google is acknowledging this by having very few originally intended uses and counting on them expanding after time.  If this catches on, proprietary software will seem even more obsolete.

4 thoughts on “Google Wave! – by “David K”

  1. I’ve been using Wave for five days now, and I still have mixed feelings. It’s definitely a very new environment and difficult to get acclimated to. I’m pretty adept at figuring out new UIs, but I had to watch a ten minute “Dr. Wave” video to really understand how everything works. It’s very confusing and at times unnecessarily so. A Wave between two people is very pointless–it’s just a more inefficient way of chatting or e-mailing and is just kind of awkward. When you get to three or more people, it can be kind of cool–as a group you can discuss multiple things at once without cluttering an inbox. I have a wave with two friends going where we post links we used to email and people can reply to each one individual within this one constant wave. It’s hard to find a use for the gadgets/maps/videos/etc. for personal use. When do you really need to use that? But when I think about enterprise use and the ramifications on project-based collaboration, I think it’s pretty powerful. Not sure it’s going to catch on, but it’s very forward-looking. Definitely relying a ton on independent developers.

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  2. I agree with Sam. So far, the coolest thing about having Google Wave is having Google Wave Invites—instant popularity hike. Right now it seems redundant and kinda useless, though that could be because I only have three friends that use it. I’m excited by the prospects, but as of now, it’s—as Mozilla’s Chris Blizzard put it—”Google Wave is basically useful as a live 4chan image board and that’s about it.”

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  3. A live 4chan image board?
    Eek…!

    Google Wave, like any interpersonal online platform (or, for that matter, the entire interwebs itself, a la Metcalfe’s Law) will be more useful when more people get in on the fun.

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  4. Hmmm, I’m seeing a little Wikipedia in here too, with the ability for any user to “rearrange and restructure the whole wave” or add a conclusion. Plus, Google saves the history, just as Wikipedia does.

    I have to say that I agree with Sam and Adi. As cool as this sounds, I’m not seeing a ton of practical uses for this right now. I can see it possibly being used as a free substitute for Microsoft Project (for collaboration on large projects), but besides that, perhaps a combination of email and chat is enough, as David said. Actually, I can see the use of putting incorporating Google Docs in with Gmail and Gchat, but beyond that, it seems like the UI would become too complicated for the average user to quickly navigate.

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