Mozilla, the creators of the Firefox browser, just dropped a preview of an experimental project that will integrate IM, Twitter, Facebook, email, and more into one user experience. It's called Raindrop, and it sounds a heck of a lot like Google Wave.
Mozilla's calling Raindrop an experiment in "messaging innovation," designed to create "useful, compelling messaging experiences" that "smoothly integrate new Web services into your conversation viewer." In addition to suggesting Mozilla's staff have read one too many MBA-level textbooks, it also indicates that Raindrop is attempting to integrate all the different ways that we communicate with friends, the public, or all-and-sundry on the Internet into one single Web-based app.
Instead of viewing Twitter, IM, Google Mail, Google Docs, Facebook, and so on in separate visits, Raindrop will aggregate them all for you into a sequence of rolling conversations. That does indeed sound like Google Wave--which describes itself as "online tool for communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together." But before we go too far along that road, check out the explanatory video from Mozilla that sets out the guiding principle of Raindrop. It's a good one: Web communications has become a noisy channel, polluted with spam and automated emails ... it should become a personal experience again.
Overly-cute though that video is, it certainly highlights the way that Raindrop can help you intelligently organize your online comms into bins that are personal, useful (such as a confirmation of flight booking) and junky. That immediately gives Raindrop a purpose, a métier--something that Google Wave seems to be lacking. Indeed, Google Wave critics have said it's neat but seems to be a solution in search of a problem. At least Mozilla's building usefulness into Raindrop's design from the start.
You could also suggest Raindrop and Wave are targeted at two different clienteles: Wave for hip-and-trendy Web-happy codeheads, and Raindrop for the less techy but still socially-connected Web user. This may even be reflected in the visual design of each, since Google's attempt is something of a data-rich assault on the eyes, while Mozilla's interface is cooler, calmer, more gentle.
But Wave is still brand new, and Raindrop is in its very early stages. Mozilla, like Google, is pursuing a completely open-source path to developing its app and APIs in the hope of attracting coders who will build apps to support the platform. Raindrop's also a Web-only app for now, though other platforms such as the iPhone or Android are in the works. So both systems are clearly going to evolve over time, and they may even find extensive use and user understanding in the near future--particularly Raindrop's digital noise suppression--useful when every new gadget seems to be wired up to a social network, and even Twitter sends you spam.
Still unexplained: the current trend of using watery names for new software products.
[Via Mozilla Labs]