Okay, not really. But apparently down at Google Australia, that’s exactly what they’ve been thinking lately—and Lars and Jens Rasmussen and Stephanie Hannon came up with a way to revolutionize email and instant messaging called Google Wave. As Lars says, “Wave is what email would look like if it were invented today.” (Official announcement.)
After a long demo, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler was inclined to agree with the seeming overstatement. Just reading about this new product is making my head spin. The integration of social and email here goes WAY beyond having a pane for GTalk in your Gmail.
The first two columns look pretty familiar if you’re used to the standard Gmail set up: the left-hand navigation has your folders and mailbox features as well as your GTalk contacts. The middle column has the inbox—but the difference here is that these aren’t individual messages, like you’d see in most mail clients, or even threaded “conversations” like you see in Gmail—these are the Waves that give the product its name.
How are Waves different from standard email? Well, for one thing you can communicate in not only “delay time,” like we do with email, but also real time (if you’re both online). And not just like IM, but see-as-you-type real time (though you can enable a “draft” feature if you want your friends to wait and see). Unlike email and even Gmail, you can click anywhere to start typing a reply to your friend’s messages—or other content, since you can include pictures, event invitations, games, maps, Wiki-style content and more.
Waves can also feature more than two people—just drag a friend’s photo from your contacts and drop it in the Wave to add them. They can sue the Playback feature to catch up on what you’ve been discussion.
Your head spinning yet? ‘Cause we’re just getting started.
Waves can remain private in your inbox or be published on the web, fully indexable by search engines. (They say that public waves are clearly marked as such in your inbox and in the wave itself.)
But that’s just the beginning of Wave’s portability. In the second phase of development, Waves will also integrate with other websites as a platform—for example, you could include a post from your blog in a Wave to discuss with friends, and have their comments in the Wave integrate with the comments on your blog (though all the details haven’t been hammered out on that one). Other commenters can also join in the wave.
And it’s not just blogs: the Google Wave team also sees lots of other kinds of sites using Wave for everything from customer service interface to contributor group chats.
And as if all that weren’t enough, Google’s also working hard with developers to make sure that the system is fully featured and ready for the masses. They have 50 internal Google developers who’ve created apps for Wave.
The APIs for Wave open tomorrow (tomorrow), but eventually the whole system is going open source as a protocol for its third phase. Waveprotocol.org has more details on that phase.
Which I know is making you wonder just when this is going to roll out. Google showed the launch at Google I/O, and though APIs are going to be available tomorrow, Wave itself is just a little ahead of its time. Google says its engineers are looking forward to HTML 5, which will enable Wave to operate within the browser without any necessary plugins (well, the “modern” browser, they say to exclude Internet Explorer).
And THAT is all. For now. You can sign up to be notified of the public launch at http://wave.google.com/.
So, if you’ve made it this far, what do you think? Are you salivating for the latest evolution of Internet communication, or are you shaking your fist at your monitor shouting “you crazy kids and your new fangled contraptions!”?