Developers are finally getting their hands on the developer preview of Google's Wave, which means we can finally get some first-hand accounts of what it's really like to use, unfiltered by Google's own programmers.
Wave, demonstrated by Google at its I/O developer conference in May of this year, allows customers to create a customizable communications and collaboration tool without any software other than an Internet browser. As such, Wave poses a significant threat to the business models of Microsoft and other applications vendors.
Ben Rometsch, a developer with U.K. Web development firm Solid State, blogged that, it's "probably the most advanced 'application in a browser' that I've seen."
Wave is like giant Web page onto which users can drag and drop any kind of object, including instant messaging and IRC [Internet Relay Client Chat] clients, e-mail, and wikis, as well as gadgets like maps and video. All conversations, work product and applications are stored on remote servers -- presumably forever. "It's like real time email. On crack," he wrote.
According to Rometsch, the user interface is nothing like a typically minimalist Google search, Gmail or Google Docs UI. "It feels a lot more like a desktop application that just so happens to live in your browser," he writes.
It really does feel like a little operating system living in your browser tab. Using it suddenly makes Chrome and Chrome OS make a whole lot of sense. If you listen carefully you can hear [Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer's chairs flying around in the background.Rometsch's experience was not entirely positive â€" Wave is obviously in preview, and every developer is on the same Wave server. "As a result it's somewhat anarchic," he noted.
Rometsch said Wave won't be ready for public consumption for some time, but it's possible that when it does, "in 5 years time no-one will know how the world spun without it."
He also listed four things that will determine whether Wave is success or not:
- How it is presented. Google has to come up with a coherent, one sentence answer to "What is it?"
- How well it integrates with existing protocols like e-mail and IM
- How third party developers leverage the platform in crazy and ingenious ways
Maybe that's just an old habit that will fade away, or perhaps it's a sign that for all that Wave is supposed to presage, nothing will replace the need for storing data and conversations locally.
[Image source courtesy of Solid State]