At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Google just finished a demo of Wave, an early preview of a product that they hope will change how people collaborate on the Web.
Lots of people, including my colleagues at Gartner, likely will have an opinion on Google Wave, because of its breadth. As the saying goes, it is both a floor wax and a dessert topping. Google says “a wave is equal parts conversation and document”, but that is too terse. Wave’s functionality is surprisingly broad, and spans email, instant messaging, discussion forums, wiki, web publishing — and even eforms and a platform for social gaming. If you are not familiar with Wave, Tim O’Reilly has published a good overview.
My main takeaway is that Wave is innovative and has great potential, but obviously in the earliest stages of its life cycle (pre-Beta). Therefore it is premature to talk about things like whether it will kill Lotus Notes or Exchange. Enterprises have accumulated archeological layers of software infrastructure through years of investment, and that technology is solidified by deep-rooted behavior patterns. Applications have worn deep grooves into the craniums of many users, and it will be hard to shift them off those familiar tracks.
In no particular order, here are some factual tidbits and spare-change observations coming out of today’s session:
- A key aspect of Wave is the distributed nature of processing, a highly federated model that likely requires fiendishly clever algorithms for multi-way concurrent interaction, synchronization, and conflict resolution. Other systems such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft Groovy view these distributed computing algorithms as a key part of the system value, and it appears that Google goes further than these approaches, at a finer-grain and with an extensibility mechanism. The message from Google is that Wave is equal parts product, platform and protocol.
- Even though open-source is a key part of Google’s strategy, the current server-side implementation relies on BigTable, which would makes proliferation in enterprises a challenge. It is possible that Google might come up with a reference implementation on a LAMP stack, but that is something that is further in the future.
- Wave validates Google Web Toolkit as a choice for developers considering Ajax toolkits. GWT is one of many offerings in a crowded space that includes jQuery, Dojo, Prototype, Yahoo UI. GWT was conspicuous in that no major Google properties (Maps, Mail) used it even though Google was the company that put Ajax on the map. GMail and Maps were built out of hand-coded. Even though Wave originated with the same technical team that built maps, they chose GWT for the Wave project back in 2007, which could have been considered a risky bet at the time.
- Wave has the benefit of learning from experience with email and spam, and incorporates mechnaisms that would enable strong identity and authentication compared to what is in SMTP.
- Wave sets a new target for browser deployments, in that presents an incentive for users to upgrade to an HTM5-capable browser, for a user experience that includes real-time interaction on a keystroke-by-keystroke baseis.
- There are various extensibility mechanisms and avenues for third-party developers to add value, such as robots (server-side modules that function as virtual participants in converations) and gadgets (client-side views). These have a reasonable possibility of gaining traction among developers, similar to the many uses of Google Maps.
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