Google have always tried to be more than just a search engine, and things like Google Earth and Street View are good examples of this. They have even delved into the world of email with the now very popular Google Mail (which is getting ever more users), and it is an evolution of that the Google’s ‘next big thing’ is centred on.
Described by Google as “the email of the future” at the Google I/O conference where it was first announced, Google Wave is an attempt to bring online communication together – think of a combination of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and G-mail and you get the general idea. But what is it that will make this different than all those things we already have? Let’s have a look!
Over the last couple years a team have been working on the Wave project, and although it is nowhere near being released the demo shown at the Developer Preview aims to attract attention not only to the Wave idea, but also to the programmers around the world to build extensions to the Wave idea.
The basic principle behind the Wave is to move away from the email system based on the relatively archaic snail mail system by where you write messages and send it to one or more recipients. In contrast the wave starts out with the idea of a conversation with numerous people participating in the wave stored on a server somewhere, similar to the idea of bulletin board.
The simple, blue and very recognisable layout gives an instant air of simplicity and efficiency, with three main columns containing the main ‘inbox’ in the middle, the right side for looking and editing waves, and the left for contacts, calendars etc.
One of the advantages of writing messages is that it is easier to keep track of structure allowing you to split messages apart and reply to certain sections of the message – and of course people can then reply to them as well splitting their messages as well. Although this may get convoluted there is a handy trackback button allowing you to go backwards and see how the conversation has progressed.
Another cool little feature (and a good example of how it combines many different things) is the way in which you can have IM-esque conversations due to the fact that it instantly updates; this is to the point that you can see them in almost real time as they type. Obviously the advantages for group editing (I will talk about this later) are large, but it could well get irritating if it was too quick and new messages were popping up everywhere (they are trying to find a compromise between speed and read-ability).
As you learn more about Wave you see how it starts to move away from email like conversations and toward something different. For example then including people in conversations is as simple as dragging people into the wave, and not only can they see all the replies but use the handy trackback button to see how everything happened, and you still don’t lose the privacy aspect as you can send private messages within the wave allowing the recipients see easily and it in context and hiding it from others.
Attachment sharing, most noticeably photos, is also in real-time and very easy. A drag and drop system (not currently supported by HTML5, and will need a download [the only part you need a download for]) means you can quickly add pictures to the Wave. You can also quickly download all the pictures from the wave (like those from lots of people’s cameras) as well as easily moving (to a new wave) and editing of captions etc.
You may be under the impression that this is just email with a little extra (although I would disagree) but there are a whole host of other features as well. For example you could add a ‘Bloggy’ robot to the wave which would automatically connect that wave to the blog, and allowing people to reply to the wave through the blog that automatically updates which could revolutionise the blogging world. This would also have the advantage that you can collate all of the blogs that you are involved in into your Wave client meaning you don’t have to trawl the web to web to find the websites that you are interested in.
Likewise you could play games on a wave with other people, or (as mentioned earlier) use it to collaborate work, notes and other documents with colleagues. Another example would be to use it with a social networking site, the example used was of course Google’s Orkut and it would allow you to start new waves, use other Orkut contacts, search through your waves and give you access to the normal social networking functions.
This really does look exciting, and with a world of programmes working on this open source product it will allow for a whole host of really exciting and ultimately useful services, and the ability to combine everything will make life easier not only at home but also at work.
So when can we expect to see this? Well at the moment there is only a demo, and there is no news as to when it will be released, but hopefully we will see it ASAP, I personally can’t wait! Feel free to have a look at the video (yes it is long, but worth it!) and let us know what you think!