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Monday, June 1, 2009

The (supposed) impact of Google Wave

As I have no hands-on experience (who does?) from using Google Wave and have only seen static screenshots. But a lot of things have been written about it already since it was announced by Google on their Google I/O (developer) conference in San Francisco last week. So what do the people who's writings I read and who's opinions I have come to respect have to say about Google Wave? Here are a few of them:

Lars and Jens Rasmussen, the original creators of Google Maps, will take the stage to unveil their latest project, Google Wave. As Lars describes it, "We set out to answer the question: What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?"

In answering the question, Jens, Lars, and team re-imagined email and instant-messaging in a connected world, a world in which messages no longer need to be sent from one place to another, but could become a conversation in the cloud. Effectively, a message (a wave) is a shared communications space with elements drawn from email, instant messaging, social networking, and even wikis.

A key point here is that Google's relentless focus on reducing the latency of online actions is bringing the online experience closer and closer to our real world experience of face-to-face communication. When you're talking with someone, you know what someone is saying before they finish their sentence. You can respond, or even finish their sentence for them. So too with Wave.

The real-time connectedness of Wave is truly impressive. Drop photos onto a wave and see the thumbnails appear on the other person's machine before the photos are even finished uploading.

But wait: there's more! Let's say you want to edit your message (or even a message that was written by another participant in the wave). Yes, you can. The original author is notified, but every participant can see that the message has been modified, and if they want, can replay the changes...//...This leads to a change in behavior: conversations become shared documents. The screenshot below shows a simple example, as Gregory and Casey collaborate to produce a good answer to Dan's question. As Stephanie Hannon, the product manager for Googe Wave, said to me, "In Wave, you don't have to make the choice between discussing and collaborating."

When I saw Wave for the first time on Monday, I realized that we're at a kind of DOS/Windows divide in the era of cloud applications. Suddenly, familiar applications look as old-fashioned as DOS applications looked as the GUI era took flight. Now that the web is the platform, it's time to take another look at every application we use today, and ask the same question Lars and Jens asked themselves: "What would this look like if we invented it today instead of twenty-five years ago?"
Tim O’Reilly Dissects Implications of Google Wave for (by extrapolation) the Knowledge Workplace...In other news, I’ve heard this past week that Microsoft will plug in, or layer over, Sharepoint with the old Lotus collaboration application Groove that helped bring Ray Ozzie to Microsoft.

Given these developments, one could not be blamed for assuming that collaboration will be THE fundamental core design principle for the knowledge workplace of the (near) future.
Though we seem to finally be hitting a tipping point with 2.0 tools at work, Wave itself seems credible enough to get on our watchlists, at least to understand the implications.

...a wave is almost a form of social glue between people and the information they care about

Google Wave is designed for real-time participation and editing of shared conversations and documents and is more akin to the simultaneous multiuser experience of Google Docs than with traditional blogs and wiki editing.

Participants can be added in real-time, new conversations forked off (via private replies), social media sharing is assumed to be the norm, and connection with a user’s contextual server-side data is also a core feature including location, search, and more.

The result is stored in a persistent document known as a wave, access to which can be embedded anywhere that HTML can be embedded, whether that’s a Web page or an enterprise portal.

Google Wave largely complements and doesn’t replace existing communication and collaborative applications.

Waves are a natural integration point for many enterprise services including ECM, SOA, mashups, and more.

I’m betting that it’s likely to be one of the most interesting offerings to businesses that the company [Google] has created yet. With the open positioning, early outreach to the world, and the clarity of purpose and design, Google Wave has a good shot at helping take Enterprise 2.0 to the next level in many organizations.
Wave doesn't require your friends to be loyal to one specific web service; it's designed to combine content from places all over the Internet.

In the end, Wave's greatest asset could be that all this information can become more useful from ties to Google's core product: search. While you can share information on social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook, the options for discovery on those services leaves something to be desired.

The idea of Wave isn't predicated on putting information into tidy folders like you have on Microsoft SharePoint, the document management system embraced widely throughout corporate America. Instead, it's based on the notion of letting information flow freely for users to interact with on a real-time basis, much like we do on the consumer web.

It will take businesses, and the software designed for them, a long time to catch up with the innovations of streaming applications. Today, employees must sort through messy "reply-all" e-mails to engage with content as a group. If you're working with a document in SharePoint, you must "check it in" and "check it out," making it hard for multiple people to contribute in real-time.

With technologies like Wave, users can select groups and individuals whom they want to share content with in a much more eye-pleasing way. Because the content is Web-based, they can update it in real-time.
My skepticism concerns Google’s ability to execute over time (e.g., building in security and management capabilities) if they are serious about Wave being an enterprise solution. However, it is clearly a disruptive approach to current market players and one that entrenched vendors with large revenue streams to protect would never have undertaken.
With Google Wave, Google has:
  • Opened a new path to reinvent how we collaborate. You have to see it to understand, but why would you need four products when one Wave will do? It's a new conversational metaphor that will also easily support document-based collaboration.
  • Re-asserted its interest in hosting the world's conversations. Google will host these conversations. And that means Google will be curator of more and more of the world's converations. An awesome reponsibility for sure, and one that regulators should pay attention to. Buut someone has to do it. Why not a company with a founding culture of "do no evil?


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