So you've got Google Wave. Now what?
A Google Wave invite may have been a hot eBay commodity, but what do you do with it once you get it?
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Google, seeing the problem, has tried to demonstrate what its new toy can do. It hosts a number of video tutorials on the Wave site, suggesting that users employ Wave for meetings, brainstorming sessions, and the like. And TechCrunch pointed to a wave posted by the Google team that shows what the writing of the Declaration of Independence might have looked like, had it been composed in Google Wave. (Wave users can click here to see what we mean. The rest of you ... Sorry!)Skip to next paragraph
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We consider ourselves pretty tech savvy folk here at Horizons, but none of these demos really seemed to change the fact that, for now, Google Wave is pretty unusable. Here's the problem: It's not just a new email or IM client; it's a complete paradigm shift. We can create test waves, exchanging "hey, I got Wave! You too?" messages. We can drop in maps, mess around with playback, and make friends' days by sending them Wave invites. But, um, that's about it.
One friend who was the recent recipient of a Wave invite asked a seemingly innocuous question (on GChat, not Wave):
i don't think i understand google wave
can i access my gmail from it?
Now, some might laugh. But this isn't some tech novice. She isn't still trying to use rabbit ears to get analog TV stations. For her and many who may have heard of it, Wave just doesn't compute. GMail computes. For her and many others, email makes sense – it's where they live. Work, school, friends – they all send email. Who sends waves?
What's Google to do?
Right now, Wave is riding the tail-end of a surge of buzz that began back in September. If Wave is to catch on, it needs wide – make that wiiiiiide – distribution. Asked why Google had been so protective of its Wave invites, Schmidt stressed that the company wanted to make sure the product would scale gracefully before expanding it to a wider audience. If, in fact, it has handled its ever-growing sandbox well, it's time for Google to open Wave to everyone.
Wave requires a monumental shift in the way people think about online communication. Even though it beats email, IM, and the chat rooms of old with its slick features, it's of no use to anyone if people have to go out of their way – or worse, explain it to other people – to use it.
Got Google Wave? Tell us about your experiences on Twitter – we're @CSMHorizonsBlog.