Google Wave First Impressions
The short version: Google Wave is your traditional forum on steroids, with the ability to add extensions to change the way you share stuff with other people. As you’ve probably seen screenshots of Google Wave, I hope the first impressions I share below carry some sense of novelty. Feel free to skip the first section if you’re already familiar with Google Wave.
What is Google Wave?
The layout of Google Wave is similar to Gmail, with the addition of a third column on the right to display the contents of whatever wave is selected on the middle column, and it’s possible to drag-resize each column. Think of each wave as a conversation of sorts, but with the ability to add not only words, but pictures, videos, and other sorts of media to the virtual discussion. Users can even choose to frame the conversation in different ways, examples being running a collaborative Sudoku game, or setting up Yes-No-Maybe waves. There’s even the playback feature, which re-enacts the Wave as it happened, much like watching a recorded conversation unfold.
Additions to a “normal” kind of conversation are organized as threads, with replies visually tied to the whatever they’re replying to through the use of indentation. Everything happens in real-time, and it’s honestly a bit cool and scary at the same time, seeing replies to each other appearing as they’re typed. It’s more real-time than chat, and forces people to think before they tap a single key. The interface as mostly responsive, though I did notice slight slowdowns as I typed replies to my one and only Wave contact (more on that later). With a future userbase most likely in the hundreds of millions, let’s hope Google has a scalable plan to update what could be millions of waves concurrently.
So Google Wave claims to be all for communication and collaboration. How well does it do either? The real-time nature of a Wave definitely helps keep people connected. As I’ve written above, Wave is even more real-time than chat! The snappy interface updates itself constantly, keeping the user on top of any new developments. And while the contents of each Wave are listed completely for everyone involved to see, the Playback feature adds a new dimension to recall. Re-enacting the Wave as it happened makes it easier to place all developments within the proper context, and the Spacebar is a useful shortcut for those who like to skim through the time frame quickly.
Collaborative-wise however, it’s clear that the relatively little number of Wave users is a limitation. Having received my Wave account mere hours ago, I only have two contacts on my list: the person who invited me, and someone I invited. Currently I can only collaborate with those two, unless either contact adds me to a Wave with numerous participants, or I add users I encounter on existing waves to my contact list.
It’s also a bit time-consuming to follow lengthy Waves, at least those of the “normal” word-only kind, despite the Playback feature. I’m eager to try out numerous extensions that promise to add to the functionality of my future waves—these extensions basically change the way you and your contacts collaborate with each other—but for now I’ll wait until my invites are processed and I have more people on my contact list. Let’s crack the whip on getting those invites out, Google!
Share Your Invites Here
I’ve already used up all 8 of my invites to Google Wave, but if you’re looking for one, or are eager to share one, feel free to coordinate by leaving comments below. Please do not post emails verbatim (firstname.lastname@example.org). To protect yourself from spammers, use “[at]” and “[dot]” or something similar (me [at] whatever [dot] com). You are also free to share your thoughts on Google Wave as comments below.