What Is Google Wave?

What is Google Wave?

The engineers at Google have been busy the last couple of years.

First we saw the introduction of the fabulous Google News Timeline program, a useful research tool that shows off just a shred of what the new Web will be like – semantic, interactive, and above all ubiquitous and useful.

Then came news of Google Squared, a semantic search engine being developed for what is known as Web 3.0 – the new era of the internet when search engines will become, well, “smart”.

Now we have Google Wave, introduced today, Thursday May 29, 2009, at the Google I/O conference. Google Wave is something most of us are just going to have to use in order to really understand how it works, what it is, and why it will succeed. In the simplest terms, Google Wave is a live chat room with a collection of document options, photo displays, videos, etc. Think of Google Wave as the next wave in chat technology, a kind of mashup of Twitter, Gmail, Google News, and video displays where you can reply to any part of any message or anything that’s shared, all in real time.

Google’s idea was to re ivent email and chat, as well as video technology and instant messaging, into “real time”. Google Wave is truly a collaborative environment, meant for project sharing. Google Wave, as has been said by bloggers all over the ‘net, might be the ultimate web service for those afflicted with ADD. Looking at Google Wave, I imagine a room full of employees standing around a desk or in a meeting room scattered with individual projects and news feeds – the difference is that using Google Wave, you’re able to work on any of the projects at the same time, while simultaneously passing notes or flirting with the cute co worker across the room.

You start a “Wave” with any message, link, photo, etc. — and you bring people into the discussion or project. Each of these people can bring other people in as well, until you’re ready to start blocking others out or even kicking your friends and coworkers out.

Google Wave can be as public or private as you want it to be. According to Google software engineer Lars Rasmussen, Google tried to answer the question “What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?” In a sense, Google Wave is designed to “redesign” our normal web communication and collaboration tools, such as email and IMing.

So how does Google Wave impact the current technology war between Google and Microsoft? You may remember that Microsoft is developing a new search engine in an attempt to compete with Google Squared and Wolfram Alpha. Surprise! There’s a new name (as predicted here at AskDeb last week and at other blogs web-wide) – Microsoft has settled on the friendly name Bing for their new service. And I assure you, there will be plenty written about Bing in the near future. Bing is meant to allow Microsoft to grab back some of Google’s market share and web advertising strengths. How successful will it be? That is yet to be seen. Unlike Wolfram Alpha and Google Squared, which are attempting to develop a new way of searching the web, Bing (so far) appears to be just another search engine.

Ironically, while Microsoft is busy playing catch up to Google, Yahoo, and the rest, even if there may be a few technological innovations in Bing, Google is constantly presenting their overwhelmingly powerful vision of the next big thing in web technology. Two major announcements from this week’s Google Developer Conference prove that the company is far ahead of Microsoft in its development.

Google first demonstrated their prowess in revealing how they plan to use HTML 5. HTML 5 is the new version of the familiar HTML web development language – version 5 is aimed at allowing the easy creation of browser based apps designed to be functional and easy to use. As the web trends more toward the kind of web that consumers and businesses want, it makes sense to develop your applications for a web browser rather than a hardware bound environment like Microsoft’s Windows. Simply put – developing apps for a browser is the wave of the future, while developing apps through old school hardware is so 2007.
Second, there came Google Wave.

Wave allows indie developers to build their apps for real time collaboration and interaction between multiple sources of input. Google says that Wave tries to mimic the way we naturally interact on a face to face level. Better still, Google Wave brings together every major internet and tech trend, from social media to wikis to advanced email apps and more, Google Wave’s got it. Ultimately, Google Wave has created a totally manageable, human oriented application that crams everything we already love about the web into a single compartment.

Obviously there has never been a piece of software that was developed with human interaction in mind — we have had to learn how to use a piece of software to interact naturally based on the standard tech restraints. I haven’t been excited about the emergence of a new search engine, apart from the rumors about Google Squared, ever.

Google Wave, on the other hand, is exciting. Its beautiful, it works, and it appears to fill a niche that hasn’t been filled before.

Google has finally developed a vision that doesn’t require complex computer networks or overpowered operating systems to be at its best. Heck, Google Wave doesn’t need any kidn of special software development environment, and completely bypasses the need for software apps. These things are the realm of Microsoft, and Google is attempting to circumvent this need entirely.

My favorite comment on Microsoft’s newly minted “Bing” program comes from a technoblog – “Microsoft is going Bing, but if it doesn’t open its eyes it might one day soon be going bang.”

It’s easy to see why Google would jump in with Wave at this time – “real time” is the way the new internet will work, and since the development of social networking (especially evident in the huge burst of popularity that Twitter has gotten in recent months) everybody’s been obsessed with real time tech. Not only does Wave highlight the conversational and social aspect of real time functions – Google is pushing for the development of apps that use Wave and run within Wave. In other words, Google is proving that any available web service is now only as good as far as it can work as a self contained platform.

Google, by releasing all of these innovations now, is attempting to drown out any “buzz” that Bing might draw. At least I think its still called Bing. Who knows what we’ll be calling the new Microsoft search engine next week – if you hear something, hit me up on Google Wave.

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