Google Wave: Day 1

Unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably heard about Google Wave. Some of the descriptions that usually surround those two words are things like: innovative, game-changing, a force to be reckoned with. Combined with the mysteriousness of the invite-only system, the Intarwebs sure are all hot and bothered about the whole thing. I admit it: I was, too.

I signed up for Wave months ago, even including a couple of witty little jokes for the developers to snicker at. So when I heard that The Google was finally letting people into the system, I figured I was a shoe-in. I waited. I waited some more. I hit the Gmail refresh button with the furiosity of a septuagenarian at a slots tournament. The emails I could care less about poured in. The one I cared most about didn’t.

Desperation set in. I solicited invites from randoms on Twitter. A few offers resulted in a pile of spammy followers, but that was about it. I filled out the form again, as if pushing the button on the elevator 20 times would make it come faster. A few days later, a friend with less technology savvy than King Ludd himself sent me a text message: “I’m on Google Wave!” My iPhone was once again tested for durability as I chucked it across the room. It buzzed again. “I have invites!”

Mine came just a few hours later. Which was just a few hours ago, actually. And since then, I can pretty much agree with the hype. This one is indeed a game-changer.

I’m not going to point you to the same stinking YouTube video that everyone else has posted. Well actually, I guess I just did. But before you click that, though, here’s the gist of the whole thing: Google Wave is Twitter, IM, message boards, and email, all rolled into one. A “wave” is a real-time, interactive, collaborative conversation. It’s the biggest chat room you’ve every been in. It’s IRC except updated for the 21st century. That’s it.

Inside each wave, you can comment, edit, and update. Embed some pictures or video, why don’t ya, or how about some Google Maps while your at it. You see the words people type as they type them. And if you jumped into the wave halfway into the discussion, you can replay it to see how it progressed. Like DVR for a chit-chat. Active waves rise to the top of your inbox, making it easy to see who is talking about what. Waves can be tagged, archived, marked as spam. And you can use way more than 140 characters. Cooler than ice on Pluto.

I participated in a public wave about the balloon boy’s non-adventure, which ended up being a great demo of this new service. I searched for “with:public” (which means look for publicly-available waves) and added the keywords “balloon” and “kid”. Up came about 10 waves. I clicked one and instantly joined in the conversation with about 30 other people. We talked from the time the UFO was at 8000ft. until the time they figured out no one was in it.

Some of the other public waves I found were: a giant, editable Twitter directory of people on Google Wave, a wave for and about Pittsburgh, and, of course, a wave about our beloved 6-time Super Bowl Champion Steelers. I suppose I should mention that waves can also be private, allowing you to invite who you choose to the discussion.

Wave turns social media on its head. It’s archived conversations that never stop about every conceivable subject matter. The biggest drawback right now is that there aren’t enough people using it. But I’m sure that will change as Google works out the kinks. And once it does, look out. It’ll be one of those technologies that will cause you to wonder how you lived with out it.

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