Google Wave: The instant wiki communicator
At its I/O conference yesterday (27th of May) Google gave developers a preview of a new communication and collaboration product called Google Wave. Google will invite selected programmers to contribute to this project even before the software is released and plans to make Wave freely available as open source software in a few months.
Wave is server based and combines the features of a whole range of other communication and collaboration services. Users access it via a web interface. They can use it for conversations which may be held asynchronously, like e-mails, or synchronously, like chats. Shared document editing can be seamlessly incorporated into these communications, and participating users are shown their fellow participants' changes almost instantly. Google treats such communications/documents as continuous objects it calls "waves". The software presents the current status of a wave to users, but can also reproduce every previous editing step – individually or as replay of the edits over time.
Image galleries can be edited almost simultaneously in a similar way, allowing users to embed, for example, Google maps or Google search results with only a few mouse clicks. Further content is to be integrated via plug-ins. To demonstrate, Google presented an online chess game. The vendor intends to release the necessary APIs and also plans to make Wave available for integration into other websites.
Google Wave servers can be federated, allowing the real time collaboration tools to work together, even if the users are working with different Wave providers. The team demonstrated the federation, with a slightly modified Wave server and a character based Wave server.
Google initially intends to continue the development of Wave in co-operation with select programmers. Then, the program will be presented to the public as a service on Google's servers. Later on, Google plans to release the "lions share" of the source code, enabling anyone to offer a Wave service on their servers. While a release date has been suggested as "later this year", Google has not given any details about what hardware and software would be required to run a Wave server.
A video of the complete presentation is available to watch on YouTube.