Weeks ago, when Google Wave was first announced, we explained why you should be terrified of it. Now Google's opened Wave up to developers, and their first impressions are being published. Wave, it seems, is a wild ride.
If you've never heard of it, Wave is Google's dynamic hybrid of email and IM chat with images and video thrown in. It turns conversations into fast-moving group streams-of-consciousness. As developer Ben Rometsch describes it, it's best to think of it as "a bunch of shared IM conversations that are organized like email messages and stored on the server for time immemorial."
It looks like the services real strength will be its flexibility: You can use it for data-enriched group chatting, which will have Campfire's developers nervous, you can limit it to a strung-out email like exchange between two people, or use it as a simple Wiki thanks to the group-enabled editing.
Rometsch does a good job of describing the features.
Widgets. These are smart coded plug-ins that let you drop far more than movies and images into a streaming Wave conversation—think of plopping a chess game into the stream, for example. They'll likely find use as connectors to third party services.
Real time conversation. Apparently feels very different indeed to both IM and email. That's because your keystrokes are displayed more or less real time, complete with all your miss-spells and robbing you of the chance to rethink your sentences mid-flow and keeping them a secret. As a result people seem to be using minimalist sentences, more like in an SMS, to keep things simple and efficient. Though this will likely evolve as users get more used to Wave's interface, it means it's a very different style of net-based communication.
User Interface. This currently feels surprisingly conventional, and seems to be set out like Outlook—a surprise for such a dynamic and alternative communication tool. I suspect this will evolve, and things are kept simple and highly tweakable for current developers.
Robots. This is possibly Wave's biggest strength and weakness. There's a Swedish Chef widget that's out now apparently, hijacking Waves and spouting "rubbish" which Rometsch notes is annoying to many. Once Wave is out in the public domain, this sort of thing will only expand—and the potential for spam is enormous. But the amazing power of in-conversation widgets hasn't even begun to be explored yet—they'll probably find uses we can't even imagine, in the same way it would've been impossible to imagine Twitter before it hit.
All in all the developer crowd seem enthusiastic about Wave—it's just possibly a real paradigm shifter that will change how we think about email. But that's assuming several things, that tie up neatly with some of the points in our "Five Reasons to Be Terrified" post.
- Wave mustn't get over-complicated—the strength and appeal of Twitter for me, in contrast, is how simple it is: Robots and widgets would get in the way of the pure communication experience.
- Wave must integrate with browsers of all types, and really work well on smartphones—which will be one of the ways it could be most useful. Until now Google's approached the smartphone app market with only varying degrees of success.
- Third-party developers need to invent clever and useful widgets that really give Wave a raison d'être and set it apart as a totally new thing—until that point email and IM ain't broken, and don't need fixing.
[via Solid State Group]