Google Wave: Google Tries to Reinvent Email

Google today announced a new Internet-based communications and collaboration platform; Google Wave. While some of the details are still a bit sketchy, Google Wave looks to be an integrated communications platform that brings together email, chat, photo-sharing, and collaborative editing features. Google describes a ‘wave’ as “equal parts conversation and document” and the Wave team basically sees it as a replacement for email and other collaboration tools.

Reinventing Email for the 21st Century

Users will be able to create ‘waves,’ and add documents and collaborators to it. The system will feature concurrent rich-text editing, as well as email and IM-like messaging functions. Lars Rasmussen, one of the co-founders and lead engineers behind this project, especially stressed the real-time nature of Wave, where edits to a wave, be they new messages or edits in a document, appear immediately on the screens of all participants.

From what we have seen, Wave combines aspects of productivity tools, social networks, and micro-blogging. One of the most interesting features is that every change to a wave is captured and users can ‘replay’ how the specific wave developed over time. Wave will allow users to send private and public messages, and Google is heavily relying on HTML5 to make the product work well in modern browsers. We will have a more detailed look at all the features of Wave once we get access to the product itself.

Developers, Developers, Developers

Google is also making a set of APIs available to developers today. These APIs should give developers the ability to enhance Wave by building extensions for the core product, but also to embed Wave’s features on other sites to make them more collaborative. One extension Google offers today, for those lucky enough to have access to Wave already, is a Twitter extension, and Google will also offer the ability to integrate OpenSocial gadgets into Wave.

Interestingly, Google is taking a very open approach with this new product. Not only will it give developers access to Wave’s APIs, but the team also plans to open-source the protocols at the core of Wave, which really points at the greater ambition of the Wave team to see Wave and its protocols replace at least some of today’s standard communications systems.

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