Google March 12 formally launched its extensions for Google Wave, a move to fortify the real-time collaboration platform's functionality and cultivate a large developer ecosystem.
Google Wave rolls e-mail, instant messaging and real-time document editing into one platform, which has grabbed more than 1 million users since its broader launch last September. Google launched Wave to open source because it wants developers to write programs that augment that platform in ways that go beyond Google's own application expertise.
Extensions, added as a link to the Google Wave navigation panel, are the fruit of this effort. The Wave Extensions gallery comprises a set of waves containing extension installers. This "Read me first" wave offers a tutorial on how to use extensions.
Users can click the Extensions link to see some extension installers, then click the Install button to add it to their Google Wave interface, where it will typically appear as an icon in the toolbar, add a dropdown to the New Wave menu or both.
Users who lost interest in the program can uninstall it from the Settings link in the navigation panel. See the example here in this blog post from Google Wave Product Manager Dan Peterson.
Google first introduced extensions for Wave back in September, offering some ambitious programs from leading vendors. Salesforce.com engineers created an extension that shows how a mobile phone customer starts a wave with a support robot.
SAP Research invented Gravity, a prototype of a business process modeling application for Wave. British Telecom's Ribbit arm has created conferencing and voice message gadgets for Google Wave. See these prototypes here.
But other third-party developers have added nearly another 30 apps since that time. These include trip planning app Trippy; Mind Map, to let users build visual workflows; Waffle, a time management tool; and Poll, a gadget for taking polls.
These apps should come in handy for regular Wave users, who are using Wave for very different purposes, but all in the name of real-time collaboration.
For example, Collaborative debate Website Debatewise.org used Wave recently to let 1,000 people from more than 130 countries debate issues arising from the Copenhagen climate change conference, while a radio station in North Carolina is using Wave to plan programming.
Google also wants to instantiate a network effect on Wave, so it recently launched e-mail notifications. Of course, Google must find that correct balance between mass adoption and user satisfaction.
The Wave team has been adding management features to Wave in an effort to cut down on some of the noise because waves were originally launched as completely public with anyone able to follow anyone. This was problematic for many users.