Holy radio waves, Batman! The folks over at Google Wave made a huge splash yesterday. Led by Lars Rasmussen, Jens Rasmussen and Stephanie Hannon, Google Wave is a real-time collection of chat, IM, and other real-time apps, and it’s quickly moving to integrate with Google Docs and Gmail. As for the nerdy details, Google Wave is built on the Google Web Toolkit, using HTML 5, and it is interoperable. Furthermore, Google plans to launch the Wave code as open source. Here’s a screenshot released by the Google Wave Dev Team:
Fun fact: Lars and Jens are brothers from Denmark. They founded Where2, a mapping company that was acquired by Google and is now known as Google Maps. From the way that Lars and Jens describe Google Wave, it’s almost like they are discussing the email of the future. It totally reminds me of those kitchens from the 1950’s, where they would advertise “The Kitchen of Tomorrow – Today!”
I think if email was invented today, it would be like Google Wave. It’s like dragging email and chat into real time., so you can do both at the same time within the same tool. Both Yahoo and Google have tried to merge chat with their email services. And I think I have even seen the same thing in my Hotmail account. But matching chat and email has not been a seemless experience to date. Google Wave goes way beyond the current methods of shoe-horning chat into email platforms. Everything in Google Wave is real-time. From the look of it, Wave is more like Facebook in nature. There are pictures, links and docs, and everyone can comment on any given element.
I guess the big question is: Will Google Wave ultimately kill other Google products like Gmail, Google, Talk, Picasa, Google Docs, and Blogger? Also, will Google Wave kill Twitter, Friendfeed, IM, Chat, and other real-time apps or services? The answer: probably not. I’m fairly certain that Google engineers could go after any service and effectively design a better wheel if they wanted to, but the factor that will make Google Wave so compelling is not it’s ability to destroy any current real-time services. Rather, the thing that makes the future capabilities Google Wave so intriguing is the fact that they are opening up the protocols from the beginning. [Note: In the long run, they plan to release a “lion share” of the source code, and they are going to open up a ton of the code early on.] Furthermore, if I know Google well enough, they are probably thinking more about integrating with other currently-popular services, like Twitter, rather than aiming to destroy them.
The Google Wave team has created a platform that can be taken and used by third parties. Unlike Twitter, data does not have to be stored on a Google server. Because of this, hundreds or thousands of third parties may create Wave systems, and just imagine the possibilities for apps and extensions! No matter where you create a Wave account, you should be able to communicate with other Wave users. Or if a team of developers wants to create and run a Wave server for private use within their company, that is possible to. The data will remain on their Wave server and never be seen outside of their corporate network. And to add to the excitement, Google Wave offers people the opportunity to collaborate on projects. Did I mention the open architecture and APIs? Wow. What didn’t they think of?
While everyone is still digesting the capabilities and possibilities of Google Wave, it’s clear that the concept has the chance to revolutionize the way we communicate on the web. Wave is a gigantic undertaking. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of popular internet services, and that is going to make it an interesting Google product to watch. Google expects to keep Wave limited to a developer preview product for several more months. I know they have invited people to sign up for updates. If you want a shot at early access, I suggest you sign up, too. You never know. You just might get lucky enough to have another internet-based social distraction. But that’s what we live for, right? 🙂
PS. How will Yahoo and MSN respond to this? What about Facebook, MySpace and Twitter? I’m definitely interested in their responses. Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, has made Google Wave one of the projects he is putting his time into. So unlike other Google products that whither and die due to lack of support, Google Wave has the support and attention of the co-founder of Google. Me thinks he won’t let this product fail. It’s too good of an idea. In the spirit of friendly competition, I hope Yahoo and MSN are working on something to compete with Google Wave. Good luck to all competitors. I think you’ll need it.
Here is the video of the 80-minute presentation from yesterday at Google I/O: