Google Wave: A World Without 'Reply All' : All Tech Considered Google Wave is about collaboration. But what does a world without the e-mail reply-all button look like?
NPR logo Google Wave: A World Without 'Reply All'

Google Wave: A World Without 'Reply All'

I was one of 100,000 ordinary people to get a wonka golden ticket last week. So I hopped right in and took Google Wave for a spin.

Half the problem (and half the mystery) is coming up with a succinct answer to "What is Google Wave?" It's been called second generation email, instant messaging on steroids, and wikipedia with social networking. The bottom line, however, is that Google Wave is about collaboration.

Wave's unique collaborative ideology solves "problems" that don't exist (yet) for the average person. Do you see e-mail as not collaborative enough? What's wrong with an instant messaging chat room for communicating? Most do not know that they want a Wave-type product because the technology we have now works well enough. But when you give it a spin, Google Wave makes these "old" technologies look amateurish. It creates a world without "reply all" buttons.

Copies do not exist in Google Wave's world. Documents, e-mails, blogs, and notes live in one place and everyone works on them together, at the same time. But that's not just a technological shift, it's an ideological one. You edit and create work differently when you create collaboratively, as opposed to drafting a document and sending it around for a response. Can you still make Wave act like two-way e-mail? Yes. But the real promise of Wave is in the workflow of true collaboration. It's a tough nut to crack when you're used to doing things the "old" way.

Overall, Wave is seven parts potential greatness and three parts hysteria. Google is nowhere near launching Wave for the masses, although you can be sure developers will be working hard on building out the core product. At the very least, I'm glad there's a preview now. It will take a good long while for users to come around to seeing the inefficiency of our current email-based world and accept new solutions like Google Wave.