Google Wave: it’s a big one

Anyone who’s talked with me about computers and communication know that I have wanted to rewrite the email architecture and have a lot of good ideas about what is needed to make it happen. Well, yesterday the folks at google trumped me. And boy did they.

Now I’m not one to generally proclaim ahead of time that something is going to be the next big something. In fact the first time I opened a web page back in the 90s long before most people had heard of “http” I merely thought “yeah, that’s nice but nothing amazingly new”. Even http was a minor improvement on other things. The famous web 2.0, that brought us many cool webpages like google maps, facebook, etc, were really just minor steps forward in technology that I again thought were cool, but nothing outstanding.

For the first time, I’m here to say: Google Wave will indeed change the world. Or the way we work with it. It’s the first technology that has ever caught me completely off guard.

Learn About It

The best way to learn about it is to watch the demo video. You probably want to watch at least from about 0:05 to 0:15 on it to get a feel for how cool it is. The trick, I think, will be to stop watching it as it keeps rolling out new things as you watch it (the interesting non-geeky content is a full hour long, out of the hour and a half). Though the video is targeted for developers (and as a developer it targets me perfectly), but it’s not so geeky that everyone else will be annoyed.

I May Actually Quit Using My Current Mail Reader

I’ve tried, over the years, to move away from the mail reader I use today (something 99% of the population have never heard of: Gnus). The reason I have never succeeded in finding anything else that would fit my bill is that gnus helps me manage email like nothing else can. Yesterday, on May 28th 2009, I received 4661 pieces of email. Now, certainly a large portion of that is spam. But a lot of it was stuff I needed to at least consider and the power of gnus lets me sort it appropriately so I can actually handle the load. But that’s a whole other subject for another time (many people wonder how I do it; I should write it up sometime too).

Google Wave, on the other hand, may finally offer enough of a new enough complete change in the way communication happens that I’ll actually be able to keep up with the level of communication that I need.


It provides real-time updates, shared tagging, proper thread control, reduced bandwidth, retroactive publishing a conversation to a new person. All these features are likely enough to actually pull me over. There are issues as well, and I’ll probably document those later, but on the whole they’re a fantastic change in thinking and are a lot along the lines of how I’ve wanted to revamp things but I think they’ve succeeded in taking to a level further than I was thinking.

It’s really like mixing email, web, chat, and usenet news all together in a single form. Or it looks like it at least. Kudos on taking the best of all those highly useful worlds and actually getting them to fit together.

And they already have it working on android and the iphone!

The Right Developmental Path

One of the reasons that I don’t use gmail much, or many other web-based solutions is that I don’t necessarily think that http and javascript are always the right tool for every job. Yes, javascript turns websites into wonderfully interactive sites, but in the end I still prefer writing text/editing into speedy local applications (I’m saying this while typing into a web page, oddly enough).

With waves, however, they’re extending both the web API and the protocol definition itself to the world. The protocol is based on XMPP, which is the standardized version of Jabber, and this is huge. This means that people will be able to write import/export components for waves and thus you can actually continue to edit in something else and publish it as a wave later.

Kudos to their forward thinking about the realm of standardization and allowing data access to other types of applications and programming languages. This is what will make it huge.

There is always a but…

I do wonder about some of the negative communication aspects that could happen. Centralized data storage about a conversation thread is a great thing when the data is generally public in the first place.

However, we still need to be careful when transmitting important information. Wave provides the ability to grant someone retroactive access to a wave. Imagine having a wave discussion and then suddenly excluding person X from a branch of it and then later intentionally or accidentally granting person X access again. Imagine how they’d feel when they realize they’ve been excluded. This happens all the time in email, but when in email when person X sees part of the conversation again he likely didn’t see the message that said “I’ve excluded person X because …”. This is really just a new management issue, but by far the benefit outweighs the negative.

(and there are more odd use cases, but certainly the benefits will outweigh the oddities of them as well)

I Can’t Wait…

And I’m not sure I’ve ever said that before about an upcoming technology.

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