By now you've read the accounts from a couple weeks ago about Google Wave, the experimental, open-source collaboration and communications tool that bundles e-mail, instant messaging, photo sharing and other tools in one application. Google Wave hijacked the Microsoft Bing announcement when Google announced it at Google I/O May 28.
Lars Rasmussen, the Software Engineering Manager at Google who introduced Wave at Google I/O, wrote:
"A "wave" is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps and more. In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the Web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It's concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave."
You can then refer back to a Wave to see the whole conversation and document thread. When a Wave is open on two users' screens, messages bounce right off Google's servers into another user's browsers to enable instant messaging-like communication.
Users don't even need to hit send to communicate their message as each typed character shows up in the other Wave user's browser less than a second after it's been typed. True real time.
You can also check a box to keep communication private until you're ready for the recipient to see what you've written. Want to add more participants to the conversation? Just drag and drop the contact into the browser window.
There are plenty of other features, all of which make the product more fascinating.
Cool? Yes. Ambitious? Hell, yes, but this is where the future of communications is heading online, or at least Google hopes so. I hope so, too. Who isn't tired of accessing siloed apps such as e-mail and instant messaging? We love how these apps synchronize with calendar apps and increasingly, how these apps port to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
But why should there be separate apps for all of our communications tools? Why can't we merge them all and have them play off one another, creating a smarter, unified communications platform? Combine Google Wave with Facebook, Twitter and other networks du jour.
Importantly, Google demoed Wave running on its newfangled Android browser and Apple's iPhone. Wave must work on mobile or it defeats the purpose.
GigaOm's Jordan Golson were hardly impressed, but I suspect they'll change their tunes when/if a finished product comes to the fore doing things that Yahoo wished it could do with its revamped Yahoo Mail.
To that end, don't think Google is alone in this unified solution scheme. IBM is regularly enabling the apps in its Lotus Notes collaboration platform to work together. Microsoft follows a similar integration plan with its SharePoint tools.
The main difference is that Google is iterating on its existing products from the Web up, it's not starting from a legacy package. It's also open-sourcing Wave and asking developers to help build the product.
We already recognize that Google whipped IBM and Microsoft to the Web for online collaboration. I wonder how long before these venerable software providers get up to speed online, which is where Google, Facebook and others are driving innovation.
Of course, there are nervous Nellies. Fast Company's Chris Dannen offers up this warning while those who are already leery of Google's gluttonous information-gorging will be loath to get themselves and their friends on Google's Wave. After all, many of you are already upset about the data Google culls through Gmail.
Imagine routing all of your communications apps, wiki documents and communications apps through the Google Borg. Why, Google's fingerprints would be on virtually on all of your data save for banking and other bill payment apps. No doubt some of you are queasy about this possibility. I guess it boils down to whether you buy into Google having a handle on your data. It could entail becoming a slave to Google Wave.
I feel comfortable the same way I feel comfortable that a bank handles my money. There's no guarantee nothing will happen to it, but you kinda have to place your trust in it. You can put all your money under your mattress, but the same is NOT true for your data in this highly electronic age.
I can't wait to test Google Wave. Have you signed up for the test coming later this year? It's good to get in at the ground floor. The more we test it and give Google our feedback, the better the product should be in the end.