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Google Wave Screenshot
Image by marketingfacts via Flickr

I finally received an invite to test Google Wave in the Dev Preview sandbox, thought it would be a good idea to share some information. I’m not planning to document pros and cons, rather, I just want to share my personal view of what I like and what I don’t like.

Google Wave (GW) is a cool web application that will likely change the way we communicate.  It uses HTML 5 and Google Gear heavily as far as I can tell.  The layout is more extensive than how Gmail and Google Docs are currently designed.  But since this is a Dev Preview, there are still a lot of things that Google has to finish and refine in the next few months before launch.

To understand the new concept in Google Wave, I would suggest to read this article from Mashable.

When I create a Wave, I can add in robots or gadgets into the Wave.  It makes life easier because when having a conversation with multiple people, visualization works better than only words.  So if we are talking about travel, what better way to start off the conversation than to pull in a Google Map into the Wave and start pinning down some locations on the map.  In some way, this is similar to the Cobrowsing concept.

Twitter, Facebook and Adobe Flash supports are added by the dev community.  There are also YouTube supports as well via Google Gear.  The whiteboard capability by the dev community is useful as well.  And similar to blog sites, you can both categorize a Wave and tagging it.  This should be able to cover different user preferences.

When you first create a Wave, it is only viewable by you.  In the system, groups of people are setup kind of like mailing lists.  So if you want to invite everyone in the system to view the Wave, you can simply add the “wave-discuss” contact into the Wave.  But once added, you can’t remove the person or group from the Wave.  (This is probably a feature for a later time.)  Assuming this is a “feature”, for business/enterprise adoption, this will post a security risks.  I guess I can say the same thing with e-mail too when forwarding to the company-wide mailing list.

By default, GW supports Internationalization and someone in the developer community is working on a translation UI extension.  IMO, this support is already better than a lot of rich-client software.

One of the robot available in the Dev Preview is to parse information and stats in a wave on demand.  So what happen is that, let say if you copy and paste a table of data into a Wave, you can use the robot to generate data visualization on demand while you are in a conversation with others.  This makes collaboration much easier because everyone will be able to see the same (raw) results.  There are also data aggregation robots out there to pull data from Amazon, The Guardian UK and weather channel.  In theory, users can utilize OpenAPI from anywhere on the Internet and pull information into a Wave and generate contextual views.  This makes plain-old Web 2.0 tools look like dinosaurs.

For each Wave, you can post reply to messages from other like what you do in a Forum, or you can edit the post like a document.  The real-time feature to see who’s typing what is very cool.  When you are getting a long answer to a question, you don’t have to wait till the person has finished typing.  There is also a playback feature where you can see the sequence of replies and editorials of the Wave itself.  So this feature is kind of like mixing Wiki history with real-time collaboration.

Did I say that this is Open Source?  And there is a voice feature.  May be it will link to Google Voice as well in the final product?  For businesses, running a team meeting would be possible via GW.  The search and filtering features in GW are pretty decent as well.  But if the user is not aware, he/she can stay in the filter mode all day instead of looking at new Waves from friends or the team.

Although I like what GW has so far, I think at this point GW is too complex for a lot of non-tech savvy users.  Learning curve will be longer for some people, and it can be weeks or months.

A Wave is definitely more of a conversation, as in a 2-ways dialog.  In addition, we can turn the a wave into a document.  This makes Twitter more of a self-center update.  I think GW will definitely reduce the time for people to collaborate and communicate, as long as the users are comfortable with it.  Offline feature enabled by Google Gear would be a nice addition to any web application.  And Google Gear is already working on Android phone.  So I can’t wait till Google Wave to be available on my Android phone.

My next step is to test the Google Wave API when the new update in Dev Preview is available.  (Also pending on what new features will be added in Google Wave Federation Protocol.)  May be then I’ll be able see all the true power of Google Wave.  Stay tuned.

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