For a few fortunate beta testers, Google Wave has finally arrived. Google's new communication and collaboration tool, which they say is their attempt at "what email would look like if it were designed today,” integrates aspects of e-mail, social networking, instant messaging, and real-time editing. Today, it's being offered to 100,000 beta testers by invite only.
So who received these invitations?
Google says they were sent to developers "who have been active in the developer preview" since June, users who signed up early and gave feedback about the project, and some Google Apps customers. Those who received invitations will also able to nominate up to five friends to use the system.
Google, which unveiled Wave in May, says it "isn't quite ready for primetime." The collaboration tool lets users create "waves" where they can invite others to share photos, text, gadgets, and links. (A video explaining Google Wave's features is here.)
Here’s how it works: In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It’s concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use “playback” to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.
Still, it'll take some time before Google Wave is running smoothly, according to the Google blog:
Since first unveiling the project back in May, we've focused almost exclusively on scalability, stability, speed and usability. Yet, you will still experience the occasional downtime, a crash every now and then, part of the system being a bit sluggish and some of the user interface being, well, quirky.
There are also still key features of Google Wave that we have yet to fully implement. For example, you can't yet remove a participant from a wave or define groups of users, draft mode is still missing and you can't configure the permissions of users on a wave. We'll be rolling out these and other features as soon as they are ready — over the next few months.
Until then, people are already dreaming up ways they could use Google Wave when it is fully released.
Chicago-Sun Times Journalist Andy Ihnatko describes how Google Wave would help him write and edit his column, and filmmaker Jonathan Poritsky imagines an entirely different movie-making process with the aid of Wave.
And the telecommunications platform company, Ribbit, a company based in Mountain View, Calif., has launched a voice-collaboration feature which enable Google Wave users to participate in real-time conversations and type at the same time. Who knows, maybe this will be the future of conference calls?