Thoughts on Google Wave

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 at 09:41am

As plenty of other people have been ranting and raving about Google Wave, I have deliberately kept my distance. Although I am waiting for the dust to settle, I have not have ignored it entirely. Thanks to an invite from someone at work I do have a wave account, but apart from playing with it for a few minutes I’m going to leave it alone, for now.

When I first heard about wave the common description was one of email if email were to be invented today. So when I started to watch the Google I/O video my first impression was that it was the old concept of the universal/unified inbox.

This is an inbox that isn’t just email, it is an inbox that also has instant messages and other notifications. As a concept this is something that has been around for a while. Actually, it is sort of what I am doing by reading RSS feeds via my inbox.

When they demonstrated how a wave could be used ouside of the wave client, such as as a blog post, my thought was actually the opposite. For wave to take off it would be essential for it to integrate with non-wave systems.

For anything with an RSS feed this should be possible with robots.

Take an existing blog, if it is using one of the main blogging platforms (WordPress et al) it will have an RSS feed for posts and then for each post an RSS feed for comments. The blog owner does nothing, yet the wave user could add the post RSS feed. The result would be that the wave user then sees each post as a new wave and as comments are made on the blog they appear in the wave. The wave robot could also be smart enough to post the wave users reply as a comment.

Of course this wouldn’t be the full wave experience (the initial post in the wave would be read only and the wave user cannot reply inline) but it would bring the systems together.

I also thought about existing wikis. It could be quite useful to bring a wiki topic in as a wave. You would then be able to playback the history of that topic and even edit it inline, providing the robot is smart enough.

You will notice that I am not talking about the new features of wave. I don’t have to, there are plenty of others doing that and I prefer to be cautious about new things. What if wave tanks? What if, like the recent Sidekick failure, it loses all your data?

I believe that the key to wave’s success will be for it to embrace non-wave services. People don’t want to be forced to maintain two separate systems, yet they need to be able to keep interacting with the people they currently interact with.

I have already spoken to some people about my opinions, and one of them asked about the success of Gmail. Gmail was different as it is essentially a new client for an old system. Once you switched to Gmail you could still communicate with people who were on other email systems.

This talk of changing from one method of communication to another reminded me of an article from a few days ago. While I can’t find it again, it was declaring that email was dead in favour of social network sites. The commentary on the article was pointing out that once a method is popular it will last for a lot longer than you would think. For example how many businesses still rely on the fax machine? Indeed, it was only yesterday that I had to post a paper form in order to change some bank details.

This is enough for now as I didn’t expect to write this much. I will be keeping an eye on Google Wave, but I’m lagging behind the rest of the cool kids as I’m contemplating changing my previous position by moving my email to Gmail…

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