Image by Lyn Millett via FlickrTechnology Thursday
Google has opened up its new Wave technology to a small number of users.
Announced earlier this year, some early discussion was fairly enthusiastic about what this technology might portend for online communication and collaboration.
The scope of Google's Wave project is broad, which makes it difficult to define concisely. It brings together elements of instant messaging, e-mail, collaborative rich document editing, and generic support for third-party Web services in a single seamless communication medium that is more flexible than any of those things individually. On a technical level, it is a messaging platform that consists of a protocol, a Web service, a set of standard extension APIs, and an open-source concurrency framework.Here's Google's page about Wave. Another interesting aspect is that they are opening it up enough that people (third parties) will be able to build extensions and add on to it. They've already started doing some themselves here - play Sudoku with your buddies, research travel itineraries, and so on. If it takes off, the number of extensions could be limitless. Think of the Apple iPhone app store but aimed at personal and group communication and collaboration. I suspect it's going to be one of those things that it will be hard to comprehend until you see it in person, though. I've signed up for an invitation. Waiting... waiting...
Communication within the Wave service is organized in a structure that is a bit like ad-hoc forum threads. Each top-level conversation contains groups of messages that are sort of like subthreads. The conversations are referred to as "waves" and the subthreads are called "wavelets". Individual messages, which are called "blips", are the smallest discrete conversational unit of a wave.
A rethinking of online communication paradigms--which have emerged and accreted haphazardly and often sub-optimally over time--is long overdue. Whether Wave will supplant our old and broken tools is another question. But I'm happy to see the experiment.
Update: Another tour of Google Wave is available at LifeHacker. Thanks to hubby for the pointer.