Thursday, June 04, 2009

Google Wave

Google have announced new technology called Wave. They say that they asked themselves one question.

"What would e-mail be like if it were invented today?"

As usual, Google have not failed to impress. After watching the keynote on their homepage on what we can expect to be able to do with Wave once it's released, I am excited. It marries Instant Messaging style chat to e-mail style conversations to forum style discussions with wiki style editing options... and much more than that!

Here are a few points in the video that I'd like to list that I'm really looking forward to.

  • Character-by-character chat.
No longer do you sit and wait while you stare at the notice "Fred is typing...". Instead, you see Fred's message as he's typing it, so you can be already formulating your reply. If you begin typing your reply before he's finished, he can see you doing so, character by character as you type.
  • Photo (and other rich content) sharing.
Something that is difficult to do with online photo albums today is allowing many people to add to a single collection. Wave makes it really easy to share photos and ideas under a single topic for everyone to see and add to. For example, your young child has a birthday party and you post some fun pics on a wave to share with everyone who was at the party, and other people could add photos that they took to the same collection.

Which brings us to
  • Collaboration
This system really allows for groups of people to work on one thing all at once. The character-by-character nature of the communication means that many people can be editing the same document at once because you see everyone's changes and additions as they're making them.
  • Spell Checker
They also demonstrated a new spell checker that is actually context sensitive. It can fix those mistakes that most spell checkers miss, like the difference between to and too, or there, their and they're. This is technology that draws upon Google's vast amounts of information at their disposal, by creating a massive database on language usage and how sentences are formed and what people are talking about. If information is power, then this is an example of an enormous amount of power being used for the common good of the Citizens of Earth... but wait, they're about to prove that spelling and grammar are not the limit of their power...
  • Language Translator
I was just completely blown away when they demonstrated this. The translator supports forty different languages and can translate between any two of them. It, like everything else, is character-by-character, so as your French acquaintance is typing you can see their text appear as they type it, with the translation appearing below, as they type.

So while Microsoft are playing a fanfare for the launch of Bing, the search tool that censors your results but has a pretty picture behind it, Google are coming up with the next big thing.

Remember the original question? "What would e-mail be like if it were invented today?" One of the things that makes the forty-odd year old e-mail standard so successful is that it remains an Open Standard, meaning that anyone can write an e-mail program, run their own e-mail server and still send and receive e-mail with anyone in the world, regardless of what software or server they are using. This is the benefit of using Open Standards so Google are releasing Wave as an Open Standard too, allowing anyone to create clients, extensions and add-ons that take advantage of the new Wave protocol.

This is what Google reckon e-mail should be like, and I like it!

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