Up until the last century or so, if you needed to talk to someone, you wrote a letter, signed it, and someone or something carried it to where it needed to go. Then came telephones, and with those, the advent of real-time communications. Then came email, and with it instantaneous conversation and information sharing. Now, Google thinks it has the next step in the evolution of how we’ll communicate and collaborate online.

First, the problems with what we have now. Instant messaging works well for very small groups of people, but becomes cumbersome in larger groups. Emails allow for dialectical conversation, but don’t occur in real time, and can become fragmented with side emails that spin off into their own conversations. Newer people are brought into the fray, and often don’t have the complete conversation before them.

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Google Wave is sort of like a chat-room on steroids. Equal parts group-instant messaging, document collaboration, and wiki, Wave allows users to edit the rich media that makes up our Internet today. Users start a wave by adding text, dragging and dropping photos, documents, videos, and any other embeddable media into the wave. All edits are visible in real time; you’ll watch as your threaded conversations expand word by word, letter by letter. Once the wave is complete, it’s stored for future reading or even playback, so you can watch as the wave develops and unfolds.

The technology even comes with an open API, so other programmers can embed Google Wave into their own sites and projects or build their own extensions to add functionality to Google Wave itself. Possible extensions suggested by Google include robot-style automated participants. (Maybe this is just our hope, but could this be the best customer support tool ever devised?)

Currently in a developer-only release, Google is eyeing a public beta in the near future.

About The Author

Michael Kaufmann, lover of all things science and gadget, is a contributing editor at Blast. He can be reached at [email protected].

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