Modern Software Experience


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Google Wave


Google Wave is not publicly available right now and the average journalist or self-proclaimed tech expert does not get an account yet either. Right now, the system is limited to developers.

Google Wave will be introduced to a limited group users later this year. Information on how to request an account is below.


Most of the Google Wave articles published so far are nothing more than regurgitated facts and opinion, articles that are rewrites of each other, with many of the most original articles basing themselves on nothing more than the video of its introduction.

first-hand experience

About a week ago, I was given an account on the developer preview system so I can provide some real coverage, provide you my first-hand impressions and make sure my facts are accurate by testing against the development system.

After playing with it, I thought it would be best to kick that of with a non-technical overview of some basic facts as they are already public right now, followed by brief post with the basic tech facts.

Google I/O conference

Google Wave was introduced to developers on the second day of the Google I/O conference, 2009 May 27. It was not introduced to users, but only to developers, and all Google I/O attendees (although it was a developer conference, that quite probably includes some marketroids)received an account on a developer preview system.

Since then, Google has been handing account to more developers. If you are an interested developer, you will have no problem figuring out how to request an account.

Google Wave Preview


The recording of the entire Google Wave session of the Google I/O conference is available as a high quality video on the Google Wave site. It is one hour and 20 minutes long, but if you really want to know what Google Wave is about, it is worth taking the time to view it.

After viewing it, you may wonder why they are not releasing this system yet, and the short answer is that the Google Wave team did a great demo. Some of the things they demoed are not working reliably yet.

what is it

Wave is developed by the team lead by brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who previously developed Google Maps.

Wave is a communication and collaboration tool. Google Vice President of engineering Vic Gondotra calls it an unbelievable demonstration of what is possible in the browser. Lars Rasmussen introduces it as what email would be like if it were invented today.
The impression the video demo gives is that Wave is not unlike a modern web forum, an instant-update wikified bulletin board system (BBS) for web 2.0.

email discussion topic

In email, you send message back and forth and your mail client may show the conversation as a thread - but probably won’t do a very good job when more than two persons are involved in the conversation. That is why Wave conversations are very much like forum discussion topics.

One difference between Wave and old-fashioned fora is that Wave does not just allow just some text, a bit of layout and embedding of a few pictures, but easily integrates all kinds of media.

The more interesting difference is that even a forum is just a bunch of threaded messages, whereas in Wave each message is a shared document that the other party can edit; I do not need to quote part of your message to add my reply, but can instead insert my reply at the appropriate spot.
That may take some getting used to, but does seem a superior approach.


Each conversation has a number of participants. To get someone else into it, you do not need to select messages from an email thread and forward these to them, you just invite them to be participant to the conversation, and they immediately see the entire conversation.


When you enter late in a conversation, you may want to take advantage of Wave’s playback feature, which shows all additions to the conservation in chronological sequence. The demo video does a good job of demonstrating this feature.

The playback of changes in a conversation between just a few people may seem like a bit of a gimmick, but consider a document with many authors. Showing and highlighting changes instead of showing differences side by side is so much more natural, as it shows you each change in context. Although it is new now, this playback feature is something we may soon consider an essential feature.

instant messaging

Wave is not just a merger of emails and discussion forums. The demo also makes it seem a better instant messenger than most instant messaging clients. A typical IM clients transmit your entire message, and you then have to wait for the other party to read your message, think of some reply, type it, and send it. You thus spend a lot of time waiting for the other party to type something. Wave can transmits messages near-instantly, as you type the characters, for truly live conversation.

spreading the Wave

Briefly put, the Wave idea seems to be to combine the best of email, forums and instant messaging into one communication platform.

Google clearly hopes that Wave will become ubiquitous; you can embed Waves on your web site, build extension for Wave itself, and, last but not least, start your own Wave server.

twitter hashtag

The Google Wave Team is on twitter. They have not tweeted much yet, and do not seem to have decided on a hashtag for Google Wave yet. I have started using #GWave, shortening the name just like as is done for Google Mail, simply because #GoogleWave is a bit long.

getting access

The Google Wave Developer Blog announced, in Google Wave: Updates from today’s hackathon, that they will extend the Google Wave preview beyond developers by handing out about 100.000 accounts to early users on 2009 Sep 30. To request an account, click the Let me know when it’s ready button on the Google Wave home page.


Some basic tech facts are discussed in Google Wave Basic Tech Facts.


2010-08-04 Wave goodbye

In Update on Google Wave, the Official Google Blog announced that Wave has not been as successful as hoped for, and that Google will discontinue development. Wave remains open source, and third parties can continue to develop the technology.


Google Wave