A Belated Take on Google Wave

Google Wave was announced at the Google IO developers' conference in late May 2009.

Quick Summary:

  • SaaS team workspace.
  • To give you a general idea, think of a souped-up/Web 2.0 Wiki or bulletin board. My colleague Steve Kille aptly called it a "bulletin board on steroids" under the hood.
  • Currently in an early state of development.
  • Google wants to get developers to integrate with Google Wave. This presentation was to encourage them to start writing Wave applications.
  • Expect general availability in perhaps mid-2010. As noted, this is still early-stages code.
  • Main features currently:
    • Post messages and responses to them--build extensive conversations.
    • People can concurrently work on documents.
    • Send instant messages.
    • Post photos and videos.
    • Built-in access controls.
  • Highly interactive.
  • Support for mobile clients, with more limited user interfaces, is anticipated.
  • There's a very nice ability to see how conversations have evolved, step by step.
  • Works with external workflows.

Application Platform:

  • Many third-party integrated applications are anticipated.
  • Google wants Wave to be open and interoperable. To this end, it will:
    • Publish a rich set of protocols and APIs.
    • Generally make it easy for third parties to write their own Wave servers and clients.
    • Make Google's Wave implementation available as open source software.

You can see the main presentation here. It runs for 80 minutes; it's worthwhile if you're interested in SharePoint/teamspace style collaboration.


  • Wave has big potential to provide shared workspaces.
  • Google presents Google Wave as a more modern alternative to email. It's an exciting and attractive technology, but one that I think is more of an alternative to SharePoint and team workspaces in general.
  • It has some very important advantages over SharePoint, some of which are its openness and user- and developer-friendliness.
  • The ability to concurrently edit live documents (rather than the traditional ECM approach of checkin/checkout) is very attractive.
  • It appears relatively easy to build third-party, tightly integrated applications.
  • Several extremely attractive applications were demonstrated, including:
    • An intelligent context-sensitive spell checker. For example, it can choose between the correct versions of "been" and "bean"; or change "Icland" to "Iceland" or "island" depending on what's appropriate.
    • A very nice on-the-fly language translator. The demo showed English/French; 40 languages are supported in all.
  • Notably, it currently lacks group calendaring. Presumably this can be fixed before too long.
  • Notably, it currently lacks good support for the posting of email items. That's a harder problem, as SharePoint's poor email system illustrates.
  • Emails will be important elements of Wave spaces. Google should show natural and easy ways of posting and using them.
  • There are various types of access controls. It's unclear at this point how well they will serve corporate needs.

... David Ferris

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