Are you looking forward to the day when Google Wave, Mountain View's all-in-one communication and collaboration tool, goes public? Well, for a select group of users, that day is coming this fall. Google announced in a blog post earlier this week it will open up Wave to 100,000 people on September 30. To get on the early bird list, you have to volunteer to be part of the Google Wave testing community.
Google didn't say whether it's too late to sign up now, but if you're interested you might as well try. Just head over to Google Wave's Website, provide your e-mail address, and make sure you check off the option that says, "Enlist me! I'll report bugs and give feedback (e.g. user surveys)." You also need to let Google know how you want to use Wave, and then write a short message to the Wave development team -- Google says haiku, sonnets, and ASCII art submissions will be accepted.
What is Google Wave?
At its core, Google Wave is a combination of e-mail and instant messaging combined with any Web-based media you can think of. I find the best way to get my mind around it is to think of Google Wave as a mutlimedia conversation thread that includes a variety of tools to help your discussion. You can collaborate on documents, chat with people over IM, e-mail show photos, throw in a map, play games, and so on.
But the advantage of the Wave is that it's not going to be like Facebook where you just spit out your posts for all your FB friends to see. Google Wave is supposed to let you decide who you want to share information with for every single wave or thread. It's true that, to a certain degree, you can control who sees your posts on Facebook, but not to the same degree you should be able to with the Wave.
But Will it Succeed?
From what I've seen, Google Wave looks like a helpful tool, but there could be a complication barrier that holds many people back from trying the service. A similar problem is affecting FriendFeed, the social network aggregation site. FriendFeed is a social network that lets you control who sees your posts to a greater degree than Facebook, and, like Google Wave, FF is geared towards sharing information and developing conversations. But many users take a look at FriendFeed and ask, "What the heck is that? What can I use it for?" I recently started using FriendFeed, and it's actually a great service, but it did take me some time to get my mind around what I could do with it.
That's the same danger for Google Wave: everybody is used to planning events with Evite or regular e-mail and posting their favorite video, article or photo on Facebook. For Wave to succeed, Google will have to convince users to give up their habits and try something new.
The other problem is that it's likely not all your friends have Gmail, but presumably you'll need to have a Google Account to get in on a wave. So if you're planning an event with Wave, your non-Google pals will have to sign up for yet another e-mail account or service to use something they may not even understand. "Just send me an e-mail, dude," will no doubt be a common response.
Google Wave may be a great information-sharing tool for personal and business users, but getting people to give up their habits and try a new method is always a tough sell.