Thinking about Google Wave

Google has released a developer preview of its new platform/protocol, Wave. I'm pretty excited about getting a chance to play with this, but at the same time my hype alarm is blinking orange.

Wave essentially brings together all the forms of online communication we already use — email, chat, wikis, blogs, and so on — and combines them into a single (mostly?) open architecture.

I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around what this will mean. As a software developer, I can see some tremendous ways that this can help me. For example, when I release a new version of one of my software programs, I need to pull in information from several different sources — bug tracker, build information, screen shots, updates to documentation — and push this information out in many different formats — blog announcement, update docs, update download page, "what's new" list, etc.

Right now, I have a kind of hodgepodge of scripts that automate some of this for me, but there's still a lot of manual work. It seems that Wave would make it possible for me to manage all this information centrally, and push it all out in the proper formats/places with a single operation. That would make publishing software updates a lot easier!

In addition to making this process easier, Wave could also let me improve things. For example, it would make it easier to keep docs up to date and complete. Users could comment on the docs, ask questions, or ask for more information on a certain subject. Features listed in a blog post could include links to the relevant sections of the documentation. In short, it seems like Wave could make the work of creating good documentation a lot easier, and with more powerful results.

On the other hand, it seems like the real power of Wave will depend on adoption. Obviously, the more people using Wave, the more useful it will be. And since a lot of people are still using IE6, the requirement for html5 support is going to be a pretty big hurdle. Also, how many people are going to give up their beloved Facebook/Instant Messenger/whatever for this new, slightly strange platform? Google's record for putting out kind of cool-looking betas and letting them wither on the vine is not too hot.

So while I'm excited about the potential of Wave, I'm also going to wait and see before uninstalling my email client.

2 comments to Thinking about Google Wave

  • I predict that if Wave takes off, it will spawn a plethora of dedicated clients, much as Twitter has. Some will be little more than site-specific browsers, some will interact with it entirely through its API using native widgets (in fact, one might go so far as to say this would be a necessary condition for judging its success). Google will also, no doubt, have a link to Chrome that gets featured prominently on its Wave site, especially when the UA is IE6.

    People who are mired in IE6 probably fall into two overlapping categories: late adopters and corporate users. The former will get on board when they buy a new computer and/or when their family and friends give them a strong reason to. The latter will get on board when the IT department decides it’s time. I don’t think either of these groups will retard its success, any more than they have retarded the success of Twitter.

  • That’s a good point about the IE6 crowd.

    Wave could be great for translators as well. Since Wave is encrypted by default, it’ll be a secure way to exchange files with clients, and hopefully replace the proprietary, half-baked file servers that a lot of them seem to be adopting.

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