Google Wave for Dummies: A Complete Review

Google promised that they will be introducing something extraordinary at the recently concluded Google’s I/O conference 2009 and oh boy, did they keep the promise! The original creator of Google Maps, Lars and Jens Rasmussen took the stage to present their latest creation called Google Waves. Their 5 person team has been building a prototype at the Sydney office for the last two years and after continuous expansion of the team, idea and technology they have finally given developers an early preview of Google Wave. It’s a wonder how new Google Products make such huge headlines, as within hours of the preview the blogosphere is raving about how this new service is going to change the way we communicate and collaborate.

The brothers took the inspiration from the fact that two of the most commonly used digital communications are based upon traditional analog methods – email as snail mail and IM as phone calls. Google Waves proposes to bridge the divide between these modes of communications by a single smooth model. The winning formula for Wave here is that all the communication flow happens in real time. Wave looks as the final answer to Google satisfying the demands for real time – yet organized – internet communication. You can say that’s it’s a coherent combination of a little bit of Friendfeed, a little bit of Twitter and a little bit of Facebook, all at the same time using real time channels. Now, if you don’t want to get lost in the hundreds of articles already on this service we have put together a small summary for you. Let’s go!

Is it a particle or a wave?

It’s both.

By erasing the distinction between email and IM, Wave lets you see each character as its typed (this feature can be disabled from the settings) and is bringing the online world closer and closer to real world experiences.

As the Rasmussens say, “A wave is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

watblog_google_wave_snapshot

In lesser words, Wave is the complete real time communication platform. Some of its innovative features include:

  • The ultimate real time machine: You can see what others are typing, character-by-character!
  • Embeddable: You can embed the waves in your own blogs or websites etc.
  • Playback option: If you have been added to the wave (conversation) that has been going for a long time, then you can be added at any relevant point, not just the end! And, the best thing, you can playback the entire evolution of the conversation.
  • Editing like a wiki: If you want to edit a message (by you or by someone else) then the original author is notified and everyone can replay and view the changes.

These features lead to a very interesting overview that now, conversations will become shared documents, rich in embedded and relevant media. And if you think that the wave is becoming too huge to handle, you can export part of it and start afresh from there! It looks as if Wave makers have thought of everything that a user might do while talking and brought it in.

watblog_collaborative_edit

  • Open Source implies extensions and applications: Wave has been made completely open and extensible, which invites developers to add all kinds of customized stuff before the final public launch.
  • File sharing: You don’t need attachments; you can just drag and drop files inside the Wave and everyone can download it.
  • Spelling correction: Server based models use natural language tools and provide very accurate contextual suggestions.

Google Wave as a platform

The official blog post up at Google Blog says that Wave is more than a product, “The Google Wave product (available as a developer preview) is the web application people will use to access and edit waves. It’s an HTML 5 app, built on Google Web Toolkit. It includes a rich text editor and other functions like desktop drag-and-drop (which, for example, lets you drag a set of photos right into a wave).

Google Wave can also be considered a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services, and to build new extensions that work inside waves.”

It is heartening to see that the team didn’t bombard the core product with loads of features, but instead added new features via the Wave APIs, which is encouraging for third party developers.

Apart from the thousands of the existing thousands of iGoogle or OpenSocial gadgets can run within Google Wave, some of the useful extensions that have been built in Google Wave are listed below (if you find out some more, do let us know below in the comments).

  • Polly: This one lets you embed polls into a wave, like the one shown below (image via venturebeat). Here, participants are being asked about whether they will attend a party. Responses appear real time in the poll for everyone to see, how cool is that? No pressing the refresh button anymore!

watblog_google_wave_poll

  • Bloggy: Is a blog client and lets you make a blog post as a wave. When people comment, they join the conversation.
  • Spelly: Is a spell-checker providing a more comprehensive database of the web from its dictionary.
  • Linky: Is a link-recognition engine which learns whether the link you just put into the Wave is from YouTube or Flickr or any other media sharing site and gives you the option to embed it right into the wave in rich format!
  • Buggy: Is a bug-reporting tool which should be really useful in the early development phases of the product.
  • Maps: Allows for collaboration on a Google map to plan events
  • Bidder: This one turns your wave into an auction!

Twave: Twitter + Wave

It is a Google Wave robot based extension, which means it can be an automated presence in the wave. The Google robot called “Tweety” puts in a full stream of a Twitter feeds within your Google Waves platform. So, you don’t just get to see the Twitter timeline, but also reply, archive and also use the awesome playback feature!

Interactive Games

Live online games and quizzes etc. with active participation from all users can now be built, similar to Facebook or MySpace apps. For example, here’s a real-time interactive chess game in Wave:

watblog_google_wave_chess_game

For a more technical explanation, be sure to check out Google’s Wave Gadgets Tutorial.

Terminology

You have to understand the Google Wave slang first if you want to understand this new communication platform. Let’s have a look.

Wave: The whole service is based on a collection of waves, and a wave serves as a threaded conversation. It can have one user, a group of users or even robots! (Not the real ones, silly)

Wavelet: Is a part of the wave, a small part of a larger history and conversation.

Blip: Is like a cell in the human body, it’s the structural unit of the system. It is a single individual message.

Robots: They are automated participant within a wave, which can used to provide information from outside sources and do certain automated and pre-coded actions like telling you about the weather at a place when you mention a city or type a certain command.

So, did this get you excited? Sadly, you will have to wait a bit as Google Wave will not be available for the general public until late in 2009. But, if you want to keep in touch with the latest updates, sign up for it here. If you want to put waves in your site and build extensions, you can get the Wave API from here and it also uses an open protocol, so you build your own wave system! Read more at the Open Protocol page here.

You can also look at a really cool explanation of the concept behind Wave via the Google YouTube channel:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ykZYKCK7AM[/youtube]

And also here is the official Google Wave keynote presentation at the I/O conference:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_UyVmITiYQ[/youtube]

22 Responses to “Google Wave for Dummies: A Complete Review”

  1. May 29, 2009 at 11:11 pm #

    This is really cool service launched by google. I would like to use it.
    Cool service by google.Nice article.
    I have a question how it is going help various domains of services ? I mean to say in which industrial area(domain) this service will be useful ?
    Because google docs are used by various people who are professional and it is used by students also.

  2. May 29, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    @chetan
    Wave is made as a communication platform so it can be used by any group looking to streamline chats/emails/media sharing anywhere

    in any kind of project :)

  3. May 30, 2009 at 4:45 am #

    Can’t believe they could create such service. Really smart!

  4. May 30, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    Thanks
    :)

  5. May 30, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    heck its all becoming too complicated

  6. May 30, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    @raj
    I tried my best to make it look pretty simple, but maybe at some time even Office Suite was difficult for people :)

  7. May 30, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    So, it’s a mashup. So what?

  8. May 30, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    @Nathan
    It’s not a mashup. It’s a complete new service in its own. Let’s wait for a mashup from Waves :)

  9. May 30, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    Google wave is an awesome service. Eagerly waiting for it to be released!

  10. May 31, 2009 at 3:13 am #

    What do you call “Twave: Twitter + Wave” then?

  11. May 31, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Seems to me that is a famous musical Steinberg Wave sound editor )))
    I guess Lars and Jens have predicted a paradigm of the future of Web. ‘Real-time’ – is a noun. ‘Collaboration’ – is a verb. But with a strong accent on Video.

  12. Michael Schofield
    May 31, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    Thank you for this quick run down of Google Wave. Google really hit the nail on the head with this one. It seams like wave combines all of the best features of so many other services into one complete package. I can’t wait until Google works all of the bugs out of the system and releases this to the public.

  13. May 31, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    well Twave is in literal meaning a mashup, but not Wave
    right?

  14. May 31, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    #
    Aditya Rao May 31st, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    well Twave is in literal meaning a mashup, but not Wave
    right?

    …well, you tell me! Google seems to be advertising itself as a mashup of several different services. What’s your opinion on it?

  15. May 31, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    @nathaniel
    Well you have a nice point, but I think that Wave is a mashup of platform rather than services.

    They are integrating the various communication modes we use like IM, media sharing, email etc. etc.

    It solves the communication problems first and then moves onto others..

  16. May 31, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

    platform rather than services.

    I’d argue the two are one and the same on the web, no?

  17. May 31, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    @michael
    The service should start by December, if reports are correct,

    @nathaniel
    IM platform – yahoo/gtalk/MSN
    email platform – gmail/ymail/hotmail

    these services have different and unique kind of features. And Wave strength lies in the fact that its integrating various platforms (or services) in a very seamless manner like no one has ever done.

    It basically wants to say, if you can collaborate via email, IM, etc. at one place.

    Then why use diff. things?

  18. May 31, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    You just agreed with me by starting your comment with “these services”. Platforms = services on the web.

    This Google Wave is just a mashup of services; it’s not a new idea. Ever seen Meebo? Mashup of im services.

    Mixing video with chat is not new either. Ever heard of Skype?

    I don’t want it all with one service because it most likely will be slow as hell. :D Nor do I think it’s revolutionary.

  19. May 31, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    Yah I agree :) But as i said its revolutionary because it is going to be the ultimate weapon in collaboration.

    team projects, live conferences etc. etc.

    Dont you think so?

  20. May 31, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    Don’t get me wrong, I use Google email and chat all the freakin time. :D Just want to make that clear.

    It just irks me that people think this is anything more than Google’s attempt at beating Twitter by trying to be “more” than Twitter. Not going to work, in my opinion. Google couldn’t buy Twitter so it’s trying Wave instead, but what it will do if it fails is risk its core market: search. What is Google doing to improve its search results? That’s what I’d rather hear about.

    37signals.com and citrix.com have been doing web-based collaboration for years. None of this is new. Skype kicks butt at free video chat (Google’s trying to do this too and look how popular it certainly hasn’t become!)

    Anyway, I’ll go away now. :D

  21. May 31, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Sure man. Was great to hear your views. :)
    See you around
    Did add you on twitter

  22. May 31, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    Some great possibilities here, but I didn’t see anything about [the substantial] security issues that must be addressed if serious collaborations are to use Wave.

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