Google Wave First Impressions

For those of you unfamiliar with Google Wave I’ll try to explain it the best I can, but the best way to learn what it is, is to check out the keynote from Google’s Developer conference earlier this year (I’ll embed it above when I get a chance later). Basically Google wanted to re-think the way we communicate with each other online. The men behind this idea are the same guys that developed Google Maps and their way of thinking was that email and IM were created almost 40 years ago before the internet as we know it today even existed, so why are we still using such a dated way of communication. It was this thinking that started the Wave development.

So a wave is basically email, IM, wiki, and much more all rolled in to one. It’s a document that you can invite people to join and make changes, it’s a threaded email conversation that you can embed images and video in to in a more structured fashion, it’s an IM client if you just want to have a conversation with a friend. And that’s not even the half of it. Because this is open source, Google wants developers to develop different bots and “apps” for Wave to bring even more advanced features that maybe Google didn’t even think of. How would you like to communicate with someone in another country, in real-time, and have all of your text translated to their native language and all of their text translated to your native language, as you type it? It’s pretty amazing some of the things this platform can do.

Currently Google Wave is closed to the public and only about 100,000 invites were sent out to developers, who in turn each got 8 invites to bring friends into the mix. I obtained an invite from a developer friend of mine and subsequently only have a couple friends who were lucky enough to get invites, so there’s not a whole lot of actual stuff I can do with the waves. Luckily you can make and read waves that are public, meaning that everyone on Google Wave is invited to read, comment and make changes to those public Waves. So between browsing through the public waves and interacting with the 2 friends that currently have Wave accounts, I was able to get the basic idea behind Wave and I feel it was enough to know if it will work or not.

Will it replace email? Not anytime soon. If more of my friends and colleagues had Wave I would not use email, but that’s the current limitation, users. I think once more people start riding the Wave and they come out with a better notification system that can translate to mobile devices I will definitely be one of the first to say that I would switch over 100%. There are just so many things you can do in a Wave that you can’t do in an email and the overall structure is so much more organized and clean.

Will it replace IM? I don’t think so. While it’s a good way to communicate in real time over a project or about an email type conversation, I don’t feel that it will ever replace IM fully. Maybe if there are other stand alone Wave clients in the future, but in it’s current state and current thinking, I don’t believe it will ever fully replace IM.

Is it social networking? A lot of articles and videos I’ve watched have all made mention of the fact that Wave wants to compete with sites like Facebook and MySpace, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. Wave is not a place for friends and personal information, yes you can share that stuff, but in the same way that you send an email with pictures of your kids. Facebook and MySpace will not be replaced by Wave ever. MySpace is going to eventually die out and Facebook is going to be the one left standing as the “go to” social network, but it will never be replaced with an email/IM/collaboration tool, which is what Wave is.

Is it truly revolutionary? Absolutely. It gracefully combines the best aspects of email, IM and wiki collaboration into one easy package all in real time. Once it develops a good user base I don’t think there are many limits to what we are going to see developers coming up with. I’ve already found good use for it as a collaboration tool with a friend that lives across the country.

So Google Wave has a lot of potential and is being hyped as the next big thing, but despite how amazing and advanced all the features and the platform itself are, it’s all going to come down to the user base and whether or not people can make the change or want to make the change to something more in line with todays technology as opposed to 40 years ago. It’s going to be hardest for those older people that have just recently learned e-mail and started getting the hang of the internet as it is today, but I think the younger generations will embrace a more social oriented way of doing things.

Has anyone here had experience with Google Wave yet? What are your thoughts?

Update: if you’re looking for all the public waves type “with:public” in the inbox search box (obviously without the quotes)

And if you have Google Wave, head past the jump to see a Wave embedded in a blog post.