Riding the Google Wave — The Future of Email?

How would you react if I told you that email, as we know it, is about to disappear?


“Not my oxyge… er… email!”
–Techno-addicts everywhere

Most of us are addicted to electronic communication in one form or another.

Email was invented about forty years ago and it’s becoming a difficult, tired technology. The way we communicate has changed a lot since its creation. Forty years ago, technologies like Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs, etc. didn’t exist, and whether or not you like to admit it, they have drastically changed the way we communicate.

So, if email is growing old and tired, what will it be replaced with? As I gaze into my crystal ball, the image of the future begins to be covered by a dense white fog.

Email’s successor could come from many, many places, but one of my favorite candidates right now comes from Google in a service called Google Wave. Google Wave is currently in closed preview, but a couple of us at IT Training & Education have been able to get into the preview to see what it’s all about. I’m by no means an expert in how to use Google Wave, but I’ve been digging through it long enough to know a little bit of what it’s about.

NOTE: This article is not intended to be a “How-To Use Google Wave” article, rather an explanation of what Google Wave is and some resources to make your transition easier and more enjoyable.

Continue reading after the jump.

What is Google Wave?

Google Wave is a new internet communications platform that melds several concepts from existing web technologies into one application. It borrows the best features of wikis, email, instant messaging, and social networking.

Instead of me re-creating everything that already exists on the web about Google Wave, I’ve added a couple of videos that do a great job explaining what Google Wave is and some of its best features.

This first video explains how Google Wave relates to email:

As you can see from that video, wave allows users to all view a single copy of a message rather than multiple forwarded, replied to, carbon copied, etc. messages. At one time in all of our lives, we’ve seen one of those monsters of email come charging our way.

You might be thinking, “So what? It’s email with a fancy interface, big deal.” Google Wave does more than just email-like tasks. You can embed videos, maps, polls and Twitter feeds into waves. You can also publish waves directly to your blogs, or even have the wave translated between participants in real time!

Check out the following video, exploring some of those features:
The 80 minute video can be found here.

Google Wave Resources — Bots, Extensions, etc.

Let’s assume you get an invite, and are now riding the Google Wave, where do you find information about bots, extensions, gadgets, etc.? There are already some sites out there devoted to listing these resources. Below is a list of some that I’ve found useful:

Riding the Wave Into the Future

How do we go from email as we know it, to waves? Rest assured, Google has a plan. Right now, Google is the only provider of wave-like communication and it’s only in closed preview. If they get their way, that will change in the near future with other providers using the Wave protocol to replace email. Google Wave is intended to be mostly an open source application, allowing third parties to build their own Wave services and for the public at large to develop their own Wave extensions (bots, gadgets, etc.).

Along with the open source Wave software, Google is developing a new open messaging protocol called the Google Wave Federation Protocol. It’s based on the XMPP (Jabber) protocol and is intended to mirror the ease of adoption of the email protocol, allowing communication regardless of wave provider.

I apologize if I lost some of you in those last couple paragraphs, my inner geek took over and made me get excited about protocols and source code.

The bottom line is that Google Wave is a new, powerful way for us to communicate. You can sign up for an invite to the service from Google or you can wait for one of your friends to have a block of invites given to them from Google.

…And no, I don’t have any extra invites!


  1. Tom Mason

    I’m sorry you think that way, wave. I’ve actually used it to collaborate multiple times on projects that would have taken forever to accomplish over email.

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