Google had a couple of interesting news bits on the messaging and collaboration front Dec. 7. Google Wave is rolling out to 1 million users while Gmail's offline capability has graduated from Gmail Labs.
Google Wave is the company's new collaboration platform, which lets users send e-mail and instant messages, share files, network with other users, and co-edit documents in real time.
That makes Wave pretty boring, if not ineffective, because the platform thrives when multiple users are collaborating on documents or projects, despite the fact that all of the users' editing cursors can be fairly noisy and overwhelming for the uninitiated.
The Wave team remedied that by sending invites to everyone who requested one through Google's online form, Google Wave Product Manager Grim Iversen said.
Moreover, while users lucky enough to receive invites in the first preview run were granted eight invites to pass along to friends, Iversen said existing users will be given additional invitations to share with family, friends and colleagues. According to this screenshot of a Wave user's account, the total is up to 15 invites.
Iversen also warned not to take Wave from strangers, noting that there are a few sites and even public waves that offer invitations to Google Wave in exchange for e-mail addresses or promotions on Twitter.
"You should always be careful about sharing your e-mail address or other personal information and remember that Google Wave is free so you should never have to pay for an invitation, either," Iversen said. "So, instead of using a public site or forum, please sign up on our form and we'll send you an invitation."
The gesture of good will to users old and new should provide some measure of comfort to some users put off by Google's Dec. 4 acquisition of AppJet, which makes a real-time document editing application that will eventually improve the similar tool that exists within Wave.
Users of AppJet's EtherPad revolted Dec. 4 when AppJet said it would be shutting down EtherPad. The company bowed to the negative noise and is open sourcing the software, which makes sense because Wave is open source.
Meanwhile, the company's offline access for Gmail has graduated from being a Google Gears-based experiment in Gmail Labs to being a full-fledged feature of Gmail, almost a year after its launch.
Offline access is essentially a stopgap to curb productivity loss. Geared for users who lack Internet connectivity on air flights or in places where connections are spotty or nonexistent, offline access to Gmail enables the application's millions of users to search and organize e-mail, compose e-mails and store them in the messaging queue. When the user connects to the Internet, Gmail sends the messages.
While the Gmail team has fixed squashed bugs for offline access, the company has in November added features to fortify users' offline productivity, including the option to choose which messages get downloaded for offline use and the ability to send attachments while offline.
"Offline Gmail has proven particularly useful for business and schools making the switch to Google Apps from traditional desktop mail clients-they're used to being able to access their mail whether or not they're online, and offline Gmail brings this functionality right to the browser," wrote Google Gmail software engineer Aaron Whyte.