Google Wave and the Enterprise

Google Wave

With a fair bit of fanfare on May 28th Google pre-released a brand new tool/suite/ concept/framework for collaboration called Google Wave. I am not going to cover all the technical details, you can see them over at http://wave.google.com. But you do need to understand that Google Wave is actually three things all in one package.

  • The Google Wave product (available as a developer preview) is the web application people will use to access and edit waves. It’s an HTML 5 app, built on Google Web Toolkit. It includes a rich text editor and other functions like desktop drag-and-drop (which, for example, lets you drag a set of photos right into a wave).
  • Google Wave can also be considered a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services, and to build new extensions that work inside waves.
  • The Google Wave protocol is the underlying format for storing and the means of sharing waves, and includes the “live” concurrency control, which allows edits to be reflected instantly across users and services. The protocol is designed for open federation, such that anyone’s Wave services can interoperate with each other and with the Google Wave service. To encourage adoption of the protocol, we intend to open source the code behind Google Wave.

Think of a wave as the combination of an email and instant messaging but on steroids! Google describes wave as being equal parts document and conversation, which sounds very strange, essentially it is a fully integrated collaborative communications framework. Technically the tool is amazing; for example real time edits of a wave appear on all participants’ screens immediately and the ability to “replay” edits of a wave to see how the wave developed. The only part missing from the wave product is a VOIP client, but given that Google has open sourced the core of wave and the extremely flexible API framework a smart engineer should be able to hook one up very quickly.

Within an enterprise Google Wave, or at least the concepts behind it, have the ability to revolutionise the way people work! The flexible streamlined approach to communication and collaboration is both amazing complex and simple at the same time.  For example:

  • Real-time foreign language translation allows everyone to easily collaborate naturally in their own language.
  • Real-time updates on waves allow teams to create documents wiki style at a rapid pace.
  • Changes that happen while you sleep can be replayed using the play back feature so you can see the context that trigger comments, suggests and ideas to be added to the Wave.
  • Drag and drop images, and in the future other media types, allows fast real time collaboration of prototypes and ideas.
  • The open API allows full integration of other products such as production schedules, or CRM tools.
  • The protocol allows you to federate with other organisations for collaborative purposes.

Now this revolution will not happen overnight given the massive investment organisations have made on Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint over the last few years. So initially I would predict Google Wave being picked up by smaller organisations and freelancers who need to collaborate with different people on projects across multiple locations.

A word of caution given Google’s track record of letting services die off time will tell if Google Wave becomes the next Gmail or Google Base.