Google rides the tech wave
Andrew Seroff | Tuesday, October 13, 2009
When Gmail and Google Apps replaced Notre Dame’s Webmail system, I was ecstatic, like most of the student body. After almost three years in an invitation-only beta version, the highly touted Gmail was going to be publicly accessible, and soon after, our Notre Dame e-mail client went from mediocre to best-in-the-biz.
The latest exciting program coming from Google is called Google Wave, which was announced at the Google I/O conference in May. The idea behind the browser-based interface is that the whole concept of e-mail is outdated. In their presentation, the Google developers state that they want to reinvent e-mail – changing online communication protocol to something that utilizes the level of technology we have today.
One of the driving concepts behind Google Wave is making a message that changes over time. For example, if you send an e-mail to five recipients, each of them gets a different copy of the same message. The idea of the Wave is that it functions like a bulletin board, with all participants posting in a single thread for all members. While this does not sound like a terribly revolutionary concept for interaction between more than two people, this concept enables new possibilities through online communication.
The most important feature of the Wave is basically Gmail plus Google Documents, a program for live document collaboration. Members of a Wave have the ability to edit the Wave, with the changes being reflected in all participants’ Waves in real time. But what happens if a document needs to be reverted to a former state? All Waves have a timeline feature that shows every stage of the document, highlighting edits color-coded for each person. Waves feature richly formatted text, photos and videos, so you can not only hold conversations in real time, but also share photo albums, presentations and more.
Ever since developers got their hands on sandbox versions of Wave earlier this year, they’ve been working hard to come up with nifty gadgets and extensions using Google’s API. Along with extensions to integrate the Wave interface with blogs and with the micro-blogging interface Twitter, the best reception at the conference went to a very impressive instant translation bot. While only a few of these add-ons were demonstrated in Google’s presentation, the system appears to be dynamic and adaptable.
In an unselfish attempt to improve the online community, Google opened the Wave Federation Protocol. In this way, you don’t have to have a Google account to use Waves. With Wave being an open protocol, anyone can have a Wave server just like anyone can host e-mail. They did this so that demand might make Wave the dominant form of internet communication.
Google Wave is finally taking e-mail and making it Web 2.0. While it is still currently in a restricted beta version, as Gmail was for almost three years, we have something to look forward to. You can register to get a beta account at wave.google.com.
Just when we thought e-mail couldn’t get any better with Gmail and Google Apps, Google does it again.