Early thoughts on Google Wave

I had a friend a little while ago tell me she thought I was a good candidate to test out Google Wave, the new collaboration tool Google is developing. There were a limited number of invitations sent out, and since I do a fair bit of collaboration, enjoy testing new tools, and could decide whether it was a good tool to use in the office, I accepted.

I had no idea what I was holding. My invitation came with eight other invitations. I held onto my invitation for four or five days before I had a chance to sit down with it, and the second I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to take it for a test drive later that day.

Bad idea. All of a sudden, people I had never heard of were asking me for invites. Like 30 of them. At 7:00 on a Sunday morning.

I soon discovered essentially what this cartoon says (via Jill). There's nobody there unless you invite them.

I ticked off my invites – my boss, obviously; two guys I expect to collaborate with at some point anyway – and then...well, there were lots of people who wanted them, and not that many. I managed to give them away in as fair a way as I could think of. And without accepting an offer to hack any databases. Since I had a few of those.

So, now I've got connections on Wave. What does it do?

It essentially allows three things on one screen: document sharing, synchronous conversation, and asynchronous conversation, and it does it all in one browser window.

I'm not as wowed by this as I could be. The open conversation (or "wave") gets very long very quickly. It's only searchable via browser search, although thankfully you can thread the conversations. You can search your waves to see which ones have some term in them, but not the one you have open.

This isn't an immediate problem, but get a few people in there for a few days, and then have one take a couple of days off – catching up is almost impossible.

I'm also not impressed with the way embedding documents and some widgets work, but to be fair, I haven't put forth much effort to make that part work for me.

At this point, I'd be content to stick with an IM or IRC chat for the synchronous communication, email for asynchronous communication, and Google Docs for the document sharing. The good news for Google is it already has all three, with the Google Docs, GMail and GChat. And if there's ever good archiving for GChat (both text and video), they have everything you need.

From a usability standpoint, Wave is pretty good, though Google needs to swap the "Done" and "Delete" buttons; people are used to the button at the lower right of the form being the action button. I've also heard that Wave needs a better mobile app, but (a) I haven't tried it out and (b) my guess is they'll make sure people are happy with the desktop app before they refine a mobile app.

If you're using Wave successfully and want to show me, I'm open to it. joshuanshear@googlewave.com (and then leave me a comment or send me a reply on Twitter to make sure I get it).



  • At first blush, I thought this might be “the next” social media tool down the road.
    You turned down my request for an invite though, so I have very limited knowledge (kidding! : )

    I was wondering if you saw any potential for “next big thing” status during the trial.

  • I don’t think Wave will be the next big thing, but I do think it’s going to be a game changer in that other services that do similar things — like Go2Meeting, Blackboard, etc. — are paid applications.

    Wave may very well be behind these technologies in terms of usefulness, but the fact that it’s free and, being a Google product scalable and with a near-immediate mass audience, we could see a shift toward pared-down corporate and teaching tools that until now have been out of reach for some public school systems and small businesses.

  • For those interested, you can buy invites on Ebay pretty cheap.

    Google did the same invite only process with gmail and everyone had to have it. Once everyone was using it, they opened up their membership. They are no dumbies. They know the best way to get people to want their product is by telling them they can’t have it.

  • Wave invites do appear to be readily available on eBay, but selling the invites is against Wave’s TOS, so I wonder if there’s a chance either they could be pulled or users found to get their invites off of eBay could be booted someday.

    I like the way they roll out new products. It took a long time before I was sold on GMail, but I really am now. Maybe Wave will be the same.

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