The beckoning Wave

‘You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment’, wrote Henry David Thoreau.

Though really torn about using Thoreau’s name and that of Google in the same piece, I could not think of a more meaningful quotation with the term ‘wave’ in it.

Not happy with just being the undisputed leaders in online searching, Google has unveiled Google Wave, a system aimed at improving online collaboration. Perhaps I should say ‘revolutionising  online collaboration’.

Beware Microsoft and Apple. Google, whose company mission is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ has just hit a home run!

Like the legendary Macworld Expo, where the Applemeister Steve Jobs has annually held court, Google launched the Wave to developers at the Google I/O Conference in San Francisco.

With the unveiling of one piece of groundbreaking technology after another at this humdrum convention venue, the Moscone Centre, has become the choice of site for ‘revolutionary stagings’ –  not unlike a Runnymede or a Bretton Woods of the technological age! 

After displacing the AOLs and the Yahoos of the ‘search world’, and then emerging from the shadow of the Apple vs. Microsoft struggle for ‘net-world domination’, the not-so-subtle message now is that ‘Google has arrived’ and it appeared to be received loud and clear.

Maybe Google staffers are just hitting back because Google was nudged from the top spot (sliding to number 4 in the rankings) of Fortune Magazine’s list of the 100 best companies to work for!!

Google software engineering manager and the man behind Google Maps, Lars Rasmussen pointed to previous communications advances such as email and instant messaging as the starting point for Google Wave – essentially, posing the question: What would email look like if we developed it today? Read it here in his own words.

With Wave, Google are proposing a new communications model, and appear keen to find out what the world might think. Though Google don’t have a specific timeframe for public release, they are  planning to continue working on Google Wave for a number of months more as a developer preview. If you’d like to be notified when Google launches Wave as a public product, you can sign up here.

Just a scan of the available reviews from the blogsphere reveals generally gushing praise – with terms like ‘how frighteningly integrated’ and ‘an absolute game changer’ liberally used to greet the Wave.

Google hopes Wave will cause a rethink about what a single communications platform might look like and be able to support when it is built from scratch, but with access to the online technologies most users take for granted in this day and age.

Wave will allow multiple users to exchange real-time dialogue, photos, videos, maps, documents and other information forms within a single, shared communications space known as a wave.

Users of the system should be able to see instantly what fellow collaborators are typing and even publish a wave to a blog or web site, where the content will update instantly as the wave changes.

Google said the aim is to allow people to communicate and work together in an infinitely richer, more instant and integrated way.

Google Wave will introduce features such as concurrent rich text editing, whereby users will be able to see, ‘almost instantly, letter-by-letter, what fellow collaborators are typing into a message or document in a wave,’ according to Rasmussen

There will also be a playback feature, and Google said the technology can integrate with the rest of the web. And supporters of ‘open sourcing’ need not fret as Google also said it was planning to open source Google Wave in the coming months. ‘Developers can build extensions to Google Wave using our open APIs, embed waves in other sites, or build applications that interoperate with Google Wave,’ said Rasmussen.

Among other things, online teaching and collaborative learning potentially stands to be revolutionised in ways we only imagined before. How long before a system incorporating Google Wave gets adapted as a VLE, with opportunities for online collaboration that other VLE platforms can only wonder about?

– Jai Mukherjee (3 June 2009)

With inputs from online news sites and print news publications … since Google invited neither Thoreau nor me to the launch!

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