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?
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.”
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.
- 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!
- 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!
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:
For a more technical explanation, be sure to check out Google’s Wave Gadgets Tutorial.
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:
And also here is the official Google Wave keynote presentation at the I/O conference: