Just as Microsoft is unveiling a search engine to take on Google Search, Google is unveiling a software program to take on Microsoft Office. It's called Google Wave, an online "collaboration" tool that brings document sharing, emailing and instant messaging under one program that works a bit like a live chatroom. Google says it developed Wave to answer the question, "What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?" It would look like this:
What the heck is that! Here's how the guys at Gizmodo described it: "a frothy...live chatroom with a spread of documents, photos and/or videos, where you can reply to any part of any message or anything that's shared, and it's all real-time." That's sounds splendid and the Wave -- which is essentially a real-time communications stream -- really does sound like the you-know-what of the future. But I'm somewhat of a tech simpleton. Features schmeatures: How will it actually change the way I work? Here's a simple breakdown:
Email: Take it from TechCrunch: "Clicking on any of the wave threads will open another pane to the right of the inbox that shows that wave in its entirety. Let's say one wave is a message from a friend and you want to reply to it. If they're not currently online, you can do it below their message just as you may in Gmail. Except there's no bulky new message creator to pop open, you simply start typing below your friend's message. But perhaps you want to respond to a particular part of their message -- well you can do that too simply by starting to type below the part you're replying to."
Documents: Google Docs as they exist are a great way to allow your team to group edit a document, but (as anybody who's worked with it knows) the edits appear a while after they're made, which can make simultaneous editing a real problem. In Wave, not only are the edits much more instantaneous, but also you can rewind the edits to see how the document changed.
Photos: Google Wave can work like a Flickr stream, but it's built into your email program. Just drag the photos in and users can see icons from their end and comment on them immediately.
Blogging: Google Wave can turn blogging into Wiki blogging. Instead of relying on comment boxes, I can upload my pieces into the wave that I share publicly and link to from this article. Once you're in my public Wave, you can point out exactly where I'm wrong by writing right next to the sentence ("You're wrong here, and here are the stats..."). Since the blog post has become an editable Wiki in the Wave, you could also see where other readers agree/disagree. No more blog, followed by comment sections. On a Wave, the blog is the comment section.
No more pop up tabs with weird party images and over-clever invitations (guilty), no more "But how do I get there?" questions. The invitation is a map. Yes.
The program isn't public yet, but it's still making techies everywhere stand and applaud or sit down to start breathing again and for once, I think they're right to do so. Google Wave is not just a Spork, because that's only two functions. It's a Swiss Army Inbox that really could change the way we work.