Thursday, June 4, 2009

Are You Ready To Do The Google Wave?

I’m a big fan of Google; like most people I use Search, but I also use Gmail, Calendar, Reader and Docs on a daily basis. I also use Picasa for quick viewing my photos, and Picasa Web Albums to share them on the internet. I use Google Maps, Earth and obviously Blogger.
There are other products that do the same thing, and I use some of those too, but I like the way that Google is starting to integrate these services. For example, when you use the face recognition feature in Web Albums, it offers a list of your contacts (just like Facebook’s photo tagging), and if you add someone new, it automatically adds that person to your contacts.
Contacts has now been given its own page, as well as being bundled with Gmail, which indicates Google has bigger plans for Contacts than just email.
Which brings us to Google Wave. If you haven’t heard about Google Wave yet, you can read about it
here. In it’s simplest form, Google Wave is described as next generation email, or as Lars Rasumussen (one of the developers) put it, “Wave is what email would look like if it were invented today.”
But it’s so much more than that. Google Wave combines email and instant messaging, and offers them in real time. It also allows drag and drop functionality for adding photos to a ‘wave’, which then immediately become visible to the other participants in the wave. Oh, did I mention that any wave can have multiple participants? All you have to do to add people is drag them in from your Contacts list. If they’re on-line, indicated by a green dot, the wave will pop up in their in-box and they’ll be able to join the conversation. If they’re off-line, they’ll be able to open the wave and read it like an email, and doing so would bring the wave back to live status.

I can imagine that if you had a number of people commenting simultaneously it might become very busy; all this live action might take some getting used to.
So what is Google really trying to do? I see this as Google’s entry into social networking. Consider Facebook. Facebook has  a profile page and a list of Friends, Google also has a Profile page and its Contacts. Facebook allows sharing of photos and the facility to allow friends to comment, Google Wave does the same. Facebook shows which friends are on-line, and allows instant messaging. Google Wave has a dynamic combination of email and IM.
The major difference in their approach is push and pull. Google Wave requires one to ‘push’ the content to one’s friends; on Facebook one uploads content and relies on friends accessing (‘pulling’) it. Which system is better remains to be seen.
One of the common complaints is that there are too many ways to communicate on-line. I would love one communication tool. Facebook has a form of microblogging, photo sharing, IM and is soon going to add email. This must be a worry to Google. They already have email, IM and photo sharing, but Wave combines them into one application, adds Twitter integration, gaming, document collaboration (did I mention those?), and a lot more.
Will people want both services, or will people choose between them. At the end of the day, I think people will go with whichever service offers the cleanest, simplest user interface, and I fear Google Wave might be too complicated and confusing. It’ll certainly gain a lot of attention when it’s released later this year, and I can’t wait to give it a try.

Thanks for reading.