It’s been a very exciting week for me, as it has been with the select few of you who were lucky enough to snag one of the 100,000 invites for Google Wave. Being an early adopter, I have been ecstatic trying to get my hands on the next new shiny object. The hype that has gone on for months billed it as the next generation collaboration platform, an email replacement, a Facebook and Twitter killer, and the list goes on.
So what exactly is Google Wave?
You could classify it as a real-time collaboration tool that enables communication between a group of people. The environment enables a multitude of media that can interact within a wave or be embedded, such as text, photos, videos, maps, gadgets, bots and more. It’s also a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services and to build extensions that work inside waves. Just as with Twitter, it’s the developer community that will make or break Google Wave. It’s very early in the game, but product innovation potential is there.
What a typical wave looks like:
A wave is conversation with multiple participants. You can add as many people as you like to the wave to participate and collaborate. Rich content can be added to the wave by anyone is who part of the wave. The content can consist of gadgets, games, maps, video, photos, files and more. Similar to a message board, participants in the wave can reply any time and anywhere within a wave to anyone. Replies are threaded and can be edited anytime. You can also keep replies private and select the participants that should see it. The real in real-time in here is watching the other participants in the wave type every key stroke, and of course every spelling error right in front of your eyes. Think before you say it applies here, because there is no comfort zone as there is with typing an email. In an odd way, watching the other person type in real time changes the experience too. To some extent this has existed already in some instant messaging platforms, but if I recall correctly, it would only say ” the other user is typing”, and not broadcast the other users text in real time.
A wave with a simple gadget embedded in it. Diving a bit deeper into the wave you will notice on the navigation bar it has some of the characteristics of an email. Reply, archive, read, unread, spam and playback. Play back lets you play back each part of a wave so you can see exactly how everything unfolded, in chronological order. Above the navigation bar you see all of the participants in the wave. You can easliy add a person to the wave as long as they have a Google Wave account, it also populates contact list based off your Gmail contacts. Currently there is no way to delete a person from a wave.
I added the Tweety bot to this wave, allowing me to easily broadcast a Tweet.
Waves, extensions and bots, oh my!
Extensions are the plugins that will allow you use gadgets in wave. Gadgets are shared applications that run within a wave and to which all participants have access, such as real-time games and voting tools. In the above screen shot you can see the Yes/No/Maybe Gadget in action. Out of the box others gadgets that can be installed are a, map gadget, Sudoku, Conference, and itinerary gadget.
Then there are are Robots. This reminds me of IRC on steroids. Depending on the bot, they can do numerous things in a wave. They can automate tasks, but they can also function as a participant in a wave, interacting in the conversation based on their capabilities.
To use a bot add its email address to your contacts list. Create a new wave, then add the bot to the wave.
Some of the bots I have come across are:
- Polly the Pollster (email@example.com): Creates and distributes multiple choice poll questions.
- Yelpful (firstname.lastname@example.org): Adds an in-wave interface to Yelp.com
- RSSyBot (email@example.com): Adds an RSS feed to Wave.
- TwitUsernames (firstname.lastname@example.org): Links @usernames to Twitter.com.
- Blog bot (email@example.com): Publishes waves to blog posts.
- Emoticony (firstname.lastname@example.org): Turns smiley faces into images.
- Eliza the Robot Shrink (email@example.com): Talks to you when no one else will.
Google Wave is intended to be a powerful collaboration tool. As a tool for collaboration, I think it has great promise and once the rough edges are worked out, it’s something I would see myself using in a controlled environment perhaps with coworkers. I think it will evolve into an enterprise tool at some point, and for it to become a true collaboration platform it needs full integration with Google Docs. This in no way represents a new social networking tool, and I think using it as such would be rather cumbersome. The beauty of it is, the user can control the experience and dictate its purpose. When the bugs are worked out, and the developer community fully embraces the Wave protocol, and integration with Google Docs is seamless, this will undoubtedly be a game changer.
This post was intended to give a brief overview of Google wave. I barley scratched the surface with the capabilities and technical aspects of what Google Wave can do. In the future once I have had more time to use it, I will do a thorough deeper examination of the inner workings of Google Wave.
A big thank you goes to Eric Logan and Ted Pedersen for inviting me into Google Wave. Before you ask, my invites are all gone, sorry.
Other points of view on Google wave: