So I got my Google Wave invitation today (from the same person who invited me to GMail many moons ago – mucho gracias fooch) and I logged in for the first time today. Here are my first observations…
Ouch, scrollbars don’t work properly in Firefox 3.0.15, pretty fundamental and visible feature and surprised they don’t have a commodity widget like that working. Even more surprisingly, when I try to run it in IE to see if it works there I’m asked to install the Chrome Frame plug-in. Small things perhaps, but shop-window problems which make it feel pre-beta.
Layout is simple and clean and in the Google mould. Bits of my gmail profile, picture and contacts for instance, have made it across. It is obvious how to create a new Wave and add people to it and I have started a couple with the contacts I have which appear to have wave accounts. I have a firstname.lastname@example.org address, which mirrors my gmail address, so I try and send an email to it to see what happens. So far nothing has happened. It didn’t bounce and nothing arrived.
Weirdly I was expecting to see my gmail inbox in here. I don’t know why really, I was just expecting it. And that leads me to the obvious question. If this isn’t email, then what is it? What can I wave that I can’t email?
I have a couple of waves already set up, several welcome ones from Dr Wave (c’mon, are we really patients? or does it need a PhD to figure it out) containing video clip tutorials and explanations. After watching a few the idea seems to be a cross between multi-party email and chat, with sharing of documents, pictures etc. and the whole in a chronological sequence of evolution of the interaction. You can (apparently, and eventually) use it for collaboration on documents, creating events and the like. I’m beginning to get the picture.
Trying to map it into the MS Office world, I think it sits somewhere between Sharepoint, BPM, MSN, Word and Outlook. It is certainly a different take. I think my main issue at the moment is that the benefit is not clearly articulated. How is it better than working the old way, because let’s face it, most of us do most of these things today, and there is overlap between them already?
It may make corporate buyers look again before investing in collaboration infrastructure like Sharepoint, although it is the smaller players in that market, and the open source projects that are likely to feel the ripples from the wave, not Microsoft.
So those are my first immediate impressions and I’m going to hedge my bets at this point. There may yet be something very illuminating underneath it which I am yet to see. Maybe, as we all take to smaller devices, there is some new way of working which wave is anticipating.
However, it has more than a little of the segway about it, and unfortunately a bit of the Sinclair C5 too. Innovative and clever? Undoubtedly. Challenging to established norms? Certainly. Paradigm-shifting? Hmm, maybe not. I have the feeling that we are all still going to be emailing in 5 years time. Google Wave will almost certainly find a niche in some CaliTechy communities, as has the segway, but I’m still walking and driving rather than segwaying, and I can’t see my wavebox displacing my inbox. Yet at least.