Google Wave

26 Jul 2009
Posted by Kiran

Recently while browsing Slashdot I stumbled upon a story about something new from Google. Google Wave is a new paradigm/product/protocol/service from Google and I just looked at their developer preview video hosted on YouTube. It blew me away!

Here is the video if you want to view it. I must warn you though that it is very long - 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Edit (18-Aug-2010): Video has been removed by Google.

I won't attempt to discuss what Google Wave is since it is beautifully described in the video and I don't believe I would be able to do it the same justice. If you don't have time to view the video though, you could consider reading about it at Google's blog.

In any case I will summarize my understanding of the main aspects of Google Wave:

  • Google Wave brings together already existing communication paradigms such as Emails, Instant Messaging, Blogs, Wikis, Documents, Papers, etc. into one seamless collaborative model
  • Google Wave is a tool to be used by multiple participants who collaborate to create content, discuss it, contribute to it and share it
  • Google Wave is extremely agile
  • Google Wave is open sourced and hence is extensible
  • With Google Wave, data resides and is continuously updated on the web

Google has always been about coming up with new paradigms as far as technology usage is concerned. And they have always been pushing towards an Internet centric computing platform.

To be honest, I have struggled to understand this paradigm and am still very devoted to my Microsoft Windows PC and Windows Mobile devices. Some how, living out of the web and having all my content hosted out of some server in the cloud hasn't appealed to me. Hence, when Google introduced the Chrome OS, a browser based OS that is aligned towards a life that is wholly online, I was extremely skeptical about its chances. I couldn't fathom how a solely browser based OS could compete with the desktop.

Google Wave has however reduced my skepticism quite a bit. It truly demonstrates the power brought to the browser through HTML 5. Google Wave provides tools for Web developers to compete with jazzy desktop applications while still not needing extremely powerful machines to run their programs on. I still think the online experience has a lot of catching up to do if they are to truly compete with refined and mature desktop applications such as Microsoft Office or the Adobe suite of products. But with Google Wave, the online experience is definitely heading in the right direction.

I still don't believe that a purely Web based OS will work. And it is not due to the user-experience but due to the privacy concerns that come with going online. The thought that all my data will reside on servers I don't control is a hard thought to digest. It is far better to be able to quickly spin off a workbook or text document and store it locally on my computer's hard-drive and control access to it myself without having to think of some server administrator having access to my data.

Google Wave will, however, be a powerful collaboration tool and if Enterprises are able to implement in-house versions of it for internal use, there will be no stopping it.

It will be interesting to see how Google choose to monetize the Wave.

I hear that all major browsers other than Microsoft's IE are aligned to cater to HTML 5. Does this mean that the Google Wave will not work on IE? The developer's preview video certainly hinted to that since the three browsers they chose to demo it on were Firefox, Chrome and Safari.

Will Google Wave be limited in its success due to its non-compatibility with the most popular browser, IE? Or, will it help to further loosen IE's grip on the market with its own popularity. Only time will tell. Let us wait and watch.

Update (18-Aug-2010): Google wave has been discontinued as a stand-alone product as of 04-Aug-2010. In their official blog, Google cites the lack of widespread user adoption as a reason for their decision. Too bad!

Nevertheless, I am sure we will see more of the technologies that have come out of the Wave in future Google Products.