Imagine if you could combine Outlook, Gmail, Facebook and Twitter into a collaborative online workspace where you could also share files with friends and colleagues.
That’s Google Wave, a new online collaboration tool that has been rolling out since September to a limited beta group of users worldwide (around 100,000) who received invitations to join. It’s intended as a kind of replacement for email, and is even competing with its own older sibling, Gmail, which was only launched in 2004 but seems to have become even more popular than Hotmail among techies.
Wave is a form of “cloud computing” – an online application that doesn’t require the installation of software on an individual computer – and as simple as the user interface looks on first glance, it does require a bit of a learning curve as people rethink their online messaging habits and figure out the best way to use Wave.
One of the most important features of Wave is that all conversations appear in real time, without the delay that can happen with emails. As well, it’s open source so Google and other developers are already beginning to create new extensions for it, such as maps, Sudoku, video chat. weather, itineraries, polls, and more
I just received my invitation last week, and here’s a brief glance at some of the features:
Signing up – When you get your Google Wave invitation you can either sign up using your existing Gmail address, a new Gmail address or another email address, but if you use a non-Gmail address it will assign you an “@googlewave.com” address with the handle of your choice.
Navigation panel – Here you have a view similar to Gmail with your Inbox, Trash and Spam folders, and you can also add other folders. By clicking on the By Me link you can instantly see all the Waves (online conversations) you have created. You can also search your Waves by title or keyword(s).
Contacts panel – Here you can see any contacts you have who are on Google Wave, but you also have a link to your contacts, whether on Gmail or imported from your email client (e.g. Outlook).
By Me panel – Your By Me panel shows Waves by you, and allows you to “follow” a conversation, spam it, delete it, etc. When you click on a Wave, it opens a detailed view of the whole Wave on the right side of your screen.
Wavelet panel – This is where you see not only the details of the conversation, but it is also arranged in contextual threads, more like a conversation on a message board. Also, your conversation appears in real time as you type it, just like chat. And, of course, several people can have a discussion on a Wave which is why it’s great for collaboration.
You can also use Wave the way you’d use a social network – to link to friends and colleagues, create photo albums, videos, and other files. Find out more about the different ways you can use Google Wave.
Receive a Wave Invitation
My Google Wave username is digitalpractices. If you’d like to receive an invitation to Google Wave, send your email address to [email protected] and I’ll send an invitation to the first 5 people who respond.