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Surfing the Web with the “Google Wave”

June 1, 2009

Next time when you’re on your computer surfing the web, watch out for the new wave quickly approaching; that is Google Wave.  As if Google doesn’t have enough presence on the internet already, it is now taking on a new direction heading towards the HTML 5 standard with their new application.

Google Wave was developed by Lars and Jens Rasmussen, and Stephanie Hannon as a tool combining email and instant messaging in a program with a layer of added functionality.  It is a service where users are able to communicate and collaborate together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.  Wave has a left-hand navigation tool bar and list of your contacts, a main wave inbox screen, and a number of indicators that shows when new content has appeared in the thread.  This original wave thread can then be opened up into another pane where you can instant message friends, upload pictures, make edits wiki-style with group collaboration, and add new wave members all in real time.

The Google Wave is in early stages of development and will only be a preview of what is to come from this new platform of communication.  Google’s plan is to introduce the wave in three phases; the first is to introduce the product as a web application, second where developers are able to get involved and make gadgets and sites for the wave, and third to fully launch the Google Wave protocol.  Once these phases are implemented, here are some scenarios of what can happen on Google Wave:

  1. Multi-person thread. If more than one of your contacts is online at the same time you are, you can talk with multiple people together in real-time on the same wave.  You can either start typing and your friend can see the message instantly, or delay the message being sent by going into “Draft” mode where you can save it and send the message when you want.  If a friend arrives late in a group conversation and wants to catch up on what is being said, they are able to rewind the wave using the “Playback” feature.  They are then caught up as they watch what was being said and can now add to the dialogue in real-time.  On the other hand, if two people want to have a private conversation they can break away from the shared wave.  They are still able to see the context being written by other members while only communicating to each other.
  2. Dropping Pictures into the Wave. If a web browser is already opened, pictures can be uploaded onto the wave to share with other people.  Once you drag the photos into the wave on your end, everyone connected to you can collaborate together to make titles for these photos or create slideshows for others to see.
  3. Blogging. This can take many forms on Google wave.  One option is for users that have their own blogs.  If you have a personal blog and want to share it with others on the wave you can allow people to see what you are contributing to the blog in real-time.  The visitors can join you, write on your blog, and place this information into the original wave.  A second option is for users who want anonymous collaboration from people on the wave for your site.  People can sign in with a comment user name or wave name, and make anonymous additions to the blog.

Now after reading more about the Google Wave, I had to wonder: Will this “new web” platform take off like developers are expecting or will people just be confused about what the wave really is?  I have to admit, the explanation behind communicating with friends on a wave, breaking off into another wave to chat privately, and still uploading pictures onto the main wave started to boggle my mind.  However, I soon realized that this product is only early stages of development and can only become clearer on how to use it when the protocol is introduced.  The Google wave has the potential to redefine online communication, blogging, and online social networks.  As one blogger commented, “a wave is shared, a wave is live.”  When this product is introduced in the near future, my question for you is: will you jump on the wave?

For more information, here is a preview of Google Wave at Google I/O:

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By Ashley Smith

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