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Google Wave: First Impressions and Future Communications

Posted on November 30, 2009 by Josh

I was lucky enough to get an early developer invitation to Google Wave. When I saw the email in my Inbox, "Your invitation to preview Google Wave", I was giddy. I wasn't sure if I should try to sell the invite on eBay or crack it open it and try it out to satisfy my techno lust and curiosity. I opted to dive in. So as I signed up with an existing Google account, the whole time reeling with the notion that I'd be waving away, right away, only to be completely deflated when I was finally signed in. The irony of the beta is that when you first sign on to Google's new revolutionary communications platform, there's nobody with which to communicate.

So I sat and stared. Clicking around... Settings... nothing... Help... nope... Crickets... chirp... chirp... New Wave... useless without someone to communicate with... "Hey! I am pretty sure I'm supposed to get some invites with this thing. How the heck do I invite my friends and colleagues?!" I could not find a way to invite others. So, Wave was utterly useless at this point; well, I could wave at myself. How embarrassing. Sitting there waving at myself. I had work to do, so I decided to come back later. The following day I logged back in to show a colleague the interface and eureka! I had received a wave from Google with the opportunity to invite some others. The note, "Google Wave is more fun when you have others to wave with, so please nominate people you would like to add. Keep in mind that this is a preview so it could be a bit rocky at times." So, away I go, inviting all my nerdy friends and colleagues who I know will appreciate harnessing the new technology.

Days later, they get their invites and I start messing around. The interface is smooth and elegant. It's much like email, but cooler, more flexible. I have had some time to interact with others and there are some very cool features.


Google Wave User Interface

I like it. However, there is a bit of a culture shock with Google Wave. It's a different way of communicating. It doesn't feel natural at first. Most of us spend a significant portion of our lives in front of our emails. We're accustomed to the ping pong, linear functionality of email. There is a reason and order to email as we know it today. I send a message. You receive it.

Then you send a message. Google Wave does that, too. However, it adds a real-time element to communication that makes it feel messy at first. While I'm typing, the recipient can see what I'm typing and synthesize a response before I've fully communicated my idea. This is a very unnerving concept when compared to the elder email. It makes me want to be even more careful with my selection of words. I like the feature, but it's weird. I've used email and I've used chat, but this is more like a melding of the two. It sounds good on paper, but after using it, I'm less confident that everybody will love it. I do, but not everyone will. Thankfully, you're supposed to be able to turn off the feature.

Traditional email has also become a staple of mobile users. I haven't had a chance to try the real-time communication features of Wave on my iPhone, but, in true Google fashion, the interface is simple, clean, and elegant (and, curiously enough, Wave is in Alpha on iPhone... I feel so privileged):

Google Wave on iPhone

I can see how Wave will be useful if the parties with which you communicate are using Wave. At this point in the beta, only those with Wave accounts can communicate. It makes it tough to leverage for regular use at this point, since users have to make a concerted effort to open it up and use it. Several months ago, we switched our company's email services over to Google Apps and the user adjustment to threaded conversations and labels was hard enough. I don't anticipate that I could get everyone waving any time soon certainly not during the beta, despite the fact that I like it.

Not all of my associates have enjoyed it. Here's a snippet from Wave illustrating this:

Not everyone is a fan of Google Wave

As you can see, not everyone is a fan. That's OK. Though I agree that it will not meet the monumental expectations, I doubt, very seriously, that it will be Google's Segway. Until more people get to using Wave, I'm not convinced that it will revolutionize the way we communicate so immensely. It takes some of the best elements of the way we communicate now and packages them in a clean interface. I think users will get over the uneasiness quickly and traverse the learning curve, mostly because the product is a Google product and comes with a great deal of hype. The communications platform is pretty amazing and the technology that is used is pretty fresh. At the end of the day, though, I get the feeling that most people will simply settle in to what's most comfortable for them.

If you'd like to wave at me, I'd be happy to send you an invite. Real comments on this post will receive a reply.


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