Google Waves: the definitive collaboration tool ?

Until I looked at this Google wave podcast, I have to confess that, in my mind, Google was no more than a cool web application editor, adding innovation to existing concepts. But with regards to Google Wave technology, I definitely changed my mind and I now think Google is imagining the next generation of applications (and not only web applications).


Google Wave logoUntil I looked at this Google wave podcast, I have to confess that, in my mind, Google was no more than a cool web application editor, adding innovation to existing concepts. But with regards to Google Wave technology, I definitely changed my mind and I now think Google is imagining the next generation of applications (and not only web applications).

Google Wave concept is to federate in a single application features of several domains such as email, chat, syndication, blog, collaboration and much more.

To describe Wave in a few words, I would say that Wave is a "real time" communication application, where collaboration is the core concept. You can use Wave like email, as the waves are persistent do not need on-line participants, but you can also use it like a chat, concurrently editing a wave with other participants. But that is only the tip of the iceberg, as Google tried to federate the best-of-breed of (Google) web applications.

But the reason why I think that Wave is the definite revolution in communication and collaboration is that it is more group_reportthan just an application. Wave is built on an open protocol, really similar to the main concept of email protocols, allowing Wave servers to communicate with each other. Wave is open source, and you can have your own wave server, opened or not onto the internet, and I think this is a key feature for companies that want to host all of their IT resources or use Wave only in their Intranet with securtiy and confidentiality concerns.
And finally, like Google Maps, Google Waves provides a Wave API allowing you to embed Wave components in web applications  to implement, customize and extend Wave client and server. Actually Wave as been built as an integration platform around a collaboration platform.

The only drawback I see  is that as a user, you need to change your way of communicating and collaborating. This may take some time, but not always, if the concept is really good and matches with the ways users actually think and act (just think of Apple with the iPhone ...) .

The video of the Google Wave developper preview at Google I/O 2009 in San Francisco gives a really good overview of the Wave concepts and Google strategy around this product.
In a few words, here are some of the Wave key features and functionalities:

  • "Real-time" collaboration, even on complex objects such as Google Maps or Goolgle Docs
  • Replay collaboration interaction history
  • Open, extensible architecture. Google expects users to develop new sets of functionalities for them ;-) thanks to two main concepts:
    • Robots: server side functionality extensions, that can interact with the wave. Google already provides a set of really cool built-in bots
    • Extensions: client side extensions to add new features on Wave clients
    • Gadgets: client side gadgets that can be added/embedded within waves

This is a non-comprehensive list of some really cool robots, extensions and gadgets:

  • Spelly: a real-time contextual spell checker. Very efficient, for english (I haven't tried if there are other languages)
  • Linky: hyperlink detector while typing text. It allows transforming text into hyperlinks, but also to embed the target resource, such as image or video, directly into the wave content
  • Rosy: on the fly translator
  • Bloggy: blog integration allowing publishing / editing blogg post from Wave (and vice versa)
  • Polly: creates and distributes multiple choice poll questions
  • Tweety: Tweeter integration
  • ... including collaborative games

Currently, Google Wave is still in a preview version, we unfortunatelly have to wait for the final release to enjoy this new Google application.

Resources

http://wave.google.com/help/wave/about.html#video: a very good introduction to google wave world (from Google Wave developper preview at Google I/O 2009 in San Francisco)

http://googlewavebots.info/wiki/index.php: Google Wave wiki, including list of robots
http://wavety.com
http://www.offlineblog.net/2009/08/most-useful-google-wave-plugins/
http://www.chaaps.com/category/googlewave

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About the author

Jacques Desmazières
Jacques Desmazières

J2EE/Java senior consultant. Expert in Software architecture and technical design, and involved in the b-i quality commitee. Before working for blue-infinity he was the technical director of a banking software editor on the French Riviera and also spend some years as a system integration consultant.