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Surfing the Google Wave: Review

Posted January 28, 2010 12:00 AM by Kaplin

Google has a way of hyping up their new products by limiting who can access them. When Gmail launched, you had to be invited by someone who already had a Gmail account. Google has been continuing this practice with their newest software, Google Wave. The service first launched on September 30th, 2009 with Google sending out 100,000 invites to people who had registered for the service many months in advance.

Google is hyping Wave as the next generation of communicating on the web, intermingling email, instant messaging, forums, and tweeting into one easy-to-use interface.

When logging into Google Wave for the first time, most people's first impressions are a bit underwhelming. The initial display shows a few empty boxes in a layout reminiscent of Gmail. Any Gmail contacts that also have Wave will automatically show up in your Wave contacts.

Other than sending private messages to friends on your contact list, or having a conversation with yourself, there doesn't seem too much to do at first. I did start a private wave to use as a "to do" list, which although there are probably better applications for that, has served my purposes pretty well.

Adding a few personal friends to Wave almost seems reminiscent of old AOL chat rooms with more versatility. If another user is looking at a Wave while you are replying, they will see each letter pop up in the Wave in real-time as you type it. Any messages in the wave are also stored in a similar fashion to email, so someone not online has the ability to come in and reply at a later date. This can be good for group discussions, sharing links, or posting photos between friends.

Once you're ready to start diving deeper into the water, you'll need to remember the most important search in Google wave. By replacing the in:inbox text in the main search window with with:public you will be able to see all the public waves in real-time. You can add a term after the with:public text to search public waves for your entered text. It seems kind of odd that Google doesn't make gazing out into the sea of public waves a little more intuitive.

Corporate Use
Google is hoping that some companies will make use of Wave's collaborative functionality by using a Wave for a meeting or project where team members can contribute their ideas and share notes with each other. For Wave to take off in this way, obviously Google would need to remove the invitation-only restrictions currently in place and make a few other improvements that I'm sure they are working on.

Another possible corporate use for Wave is for companies to stay connected to their customers, as many are trying to do now with Twitter. One example use of Wave would be sending out a poll to get user feedback on new products or marketing campaigns.

Overall Impressions
I'm on the fence about Google Wave. It does a good job of integrating all types of online communication into one interface, but most people probably don't check their Wave inbox nearly as much as their email, which means your message won't reach its recipient as quick. That could change if Wave really takes off though.

The other noticeable downside to Wave is the slow reaction times. This can be especially noticed when scrolling through a longer wave that has pictures or other widgets embedded in it. Hopefully with future server upgrades Google will speed up their Wave service.

Also, don't forget Wave is still in the preview phase and more features are coming. Currently, by clicking on the Settings Wave, you get an under construction page that says, "This wave is where you will be able to customize your personal options and extensions, but we are still working on it".

Now that Wave has been out for a few months, most people who were looking for invitations already have one. If you're interested in checking it out but haven't had the opportunity, post in the comments and I'll pass an invite your way.

Anyone have a chance to try Wave out already? What are your thoughts?

More Info:
About Google Wave
Google Wave: A Complete Guide
Google Wave's Best Use Cases
Google Wave Gets Business-Friendly With New Features


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Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: IEEE GlobalSpec
Posts: 137
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Re: Surfing the Google Wave: Review

01/28/2010 11:45 AM

Very cool... I didn't know about the public waves, so I'll have to check that out. I got an invite a month or two ago, but since I knew no one using the service, I wasn't able to really do much with it.

I think the idea is great, but I'd be more apt to use it if they integrated it with Gmail. As its own service/inbox, I don't know how much I'd actually use it.

Web Developer / Software Engineer, IEEE GlobalSpec.
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Join Date: Jul 2008
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Re: Surfing the Google Wave: Review

01/28/2010 2:45 PM

If people could see my messages as I was typing them, they would probably be confused. There is a reason there is a send button in AIM. You get out what you want to say and then reread it and then send it. I could see the practical uses for this, however.

About a week ago, I heard the features that Google Wave offers and I am not so sure that I would take the plunge. This blog has provided a lot of useful information that other places haven't. I am curious to see how its functionality is used in the future.

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Join Date: Jul 2009
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Re: Surfing the Google Wave: Review

01/28/2010 8:48 PM

Wave is great, but there are some improvements I'm waiting for. There's sort of a learning curve to it if you're used to using docs, but it's a nice tool to have. The collaborative function is going to be very useful for students.

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