My 6/07/09 Missoulian column
As the saying goes, don’t blink or you’ll miss the small town you’re driving through. Well, if you blink, you’ll miss Google releasing a new service.
Last week, Google announced a service that won’t be publicly accessible until later this summer, but it’s already being described as something that might cause users to leave other popular Google services such as Gmail, Docs, Maps and others.
It’s called Wave, and Google has given a limited number of software developers a first shot at it so they can give feedback to Google, and to start writing software to go along with the full release of Waves.
So what is Wave? Wave is “cloud computing,” it’s real time and it combines some existing Google services into one.
PC World calls Wave the “equivalent of a Swiss Army knife for consumer online services. … Wave lets people create a document to which multiple users can add rich text, multimedia, gadget applications and feeds, and do so concurrently in the way in which people interact on, say, instant messaging. These ‘waves’ can be rolled back to view the evolution of the document.”
Currently, other Google services – such as Docs, Picasa (for photos), Gmail and Chat – all separately provide services like those that Wave wants to bring together under one roof. Or, in this case, one Web browser window.
Wave is a form of cloud computing – many people collaborating on the same documents. With Wave, that work can include multimedia, photos, Web links, e-mail and messaging. The cloud in all this is the fact that the data exist not on users’ PCs, but somewhere in Google’s cloud of the Internet, accessible to all collaborators while they work.
But Wave also has aspects that work in “real time.” This is what The New York Times recognized right away with its first look at Wave: “The first thing new users will probably notice is that Wave always shows you exactly what your contacts are typing in real-time. … Even when adding a map, you can see how somebody scrolls around it to mark a spot, for example.”
Real-time computing is one of the holy grails of the future Internet, as much as the cloud computing that Wave provides. Real time means not having to wait on e-mail and messages; if someone is online, they can communicate and collaborate in real time.