While the world has focused on Google Wave as a mash-up of chat, e-mail, and document sharing, it's really something else: Google Wave could be the Twitter that everyone really wants. Maybe it's the Facebook, too.
Shown for the first time on Thursday at Google's I/O developer conference, Wave is described as "equal part conversation and document" for its uses as a collaboration tool. But, the leap from what Google says Wave is today to what it can easily become is a short one.
If Google wants to compete, head-to-head, with Twitter and Facebook, Wave is the perfect start. It may not be a competitor when it first becomes publicly available, perhaps because the merging of documents, feeds, photos, e-mail, instant messaging, event planning, and other features is likely to seem so unfamiliar to users.
It will likely take time before would-be users really understand what Wave does and can be used for. How much time? Months, not years.
Then give Wave a more public face--documents, chats, IMs, etc.--to be shared with everyone on your contact list or the world at-large and Wave does everything Facebook and Twitter do. And more.
It is not a foregone conclusion this will happen. Outside its core search business and related tools, Google has faced an uphill battle for user acceptance. However, Wave, by combining so many otherwise separate Google features, could finally provide the compelling experience users seek.
Build, Not Buy
For months there have been rumors that Google would buy one (both?) of the big social network players. Why didn't it? With Wave almost ready to release, why spend the money to purchase a large distraction?
Another important thing: Google already has a built-in, advertising-based business model that customers understand. That is a huge thing, considering that Twitter and Facebook are still looking for ways to monetize their users.
While Google has not announced a release date, it only describes availability as "later this year," the company has started a developer program, released a set of APIs, and is providing limited access to developers seeking to test their Wave-based applications. An active developer forum now exists, as well as a Wave development team blog.
Waving For Business
Google Wave has obvious business uses, combining tools that businesspeople use every day. It will be important that the Wave mail client and other applications learn to work with closely what we already use and for Wave to be something people can adopt without disrupting how they already work.
That has been a challenge for Google in the past, but if Wave is to achieve its great potential it must be easy to adopt and add to the way people already work.
Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook need to be looking over their shoulders.