Google Wave: First Impression

I finally got an invitation to create my Google Wave account; the extremely hyped and highly anticipated communication platform. For those who are still unclear what wave really is, the premise is this:

Email and instant messaging were invented over 30 years ago when computers and networking technology were in their infancy. Email and IM both mirrored traditional communication channels: snail mail and face-to-face conversations. In many circumstances, this paradigm breaks down. Google Wave assumes today’s technologies (Wikis, cloud data, stronger search algorithms etc.) as the basis for a communication platform.

It is important to note that Google Wave is not designed to be just another Google product but rather it is an entirely new protocol. Anyone could setup their own wave server if they choose to. On that note, it is also important to note that the wave protocol is still under development and is a long way from becoming an email replacement (if it ever does).

The main screen

The main screen

After signing into Google Wave, you are greeted by three-column interface similar to Microsoft Outlook 2003/2007. Anyone who’s used an email client shouldn’t have too much difficultly figuring this out. I’d say the UI is a bit more intuitive than Gmail’s. The real conceptual difference people need to get used to is the idea that conversations are hosted in one location. Gone are the days of sending emails out to multiple people which usually ends up in a mess of reply chains. Once a wave is started, people can be added as participants who can make changes to any part of the ongoing discussion. In a way, this style of communicating is reminiscent of a discussion forum, however it is much richer thanks to “gadgets.” Gadgets are mini-applications for polls or maps you can put right in the conversation. Ultimately, wave works much better than email for groups of people. The fewer participants a wave has however, the less obvious wave’s benefits are. Also, the built-in chat function behaves in the same way a full wave does. It’s not enough like chat nor is it differentiated enough from a regular wave to really make much sense.

At this point, wave is really just a toy. Many of the features (such as contact management) are still very basic. Also, if wave wants to stand any chance of being adopted, it needs to have some backward compatibility with email.

Aditional Reading:
Google Wave and the Dawn of Passive Aggressive Communication
WSJ: The end of the Email Era

Stalker screenshot

Stalker screenshot

On a completely non-wave related issue, I was on the site for Google Latitude and came across something very creepy. The screenshots the site featured showed a map of my home town, Troy, MI. I wouldn’t think Troy is important enough to be a screenshot for one of Google’s services. After asking some friends, they did not see the same image. Just more evidence that Google knows your every move and end up turning into Skynet. Or at the very least something like this:



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