Some notes about Google Wave

I’m still not sure about the whole hype around Google’s new service, Wave. Thanks to Jürgen, I got an invite as well and I’ve been fiddling with it from time to time… I’m not saying it’s useless, but I don’t think it’s excessively useful either.

What I think Google was able to do here was a lot of pre-hype of something that, generally, is once again mediocre (and definitely the code was; the first days I tried it out, the “something went wrong, please refresh” message was absolutely common). And again the whole “invite frenzy” is working very well for them. The idea that it’s something that just a “limited set” can look at makes the product much more desired than it would be if it was simply accessible to anybody.

And to be honest, every time I read about people “stealing invites” and tricking others about entering the preview I start to worry about the destiny of humanity as a species. At least, I have yet to see a literal telephone sanitizer around. Although I’m not entirely positive that this will keep to be the case in the future. Again, don’t get me wrong, I was curious about Wave as well, given how much I read about it, also on twitter/identica from other FLOSS developers, but at the same time, I wasn’t really going to jump through any hoop to find out how much that was relevant or not.

So, first note I have to make is that the interface seems really to be designed to be part of those web applications that try to replace the standard desktop, with the widgets that behave like standard windows and so on. I don’t really like that idea because I still think that a standard desktop is very useful (I’m a bit worried about Gnome Shell as well, to be honest); I don’t make excessive use of Apple’s Dashboard, nor I use stuff like iGoogle, or the widget support in my Bravia LCD TV. But I guess this might actually be Google’s strategy for their Chrome OS thing.

Behind all the hype around it, I define Wave (to Luca’s laughs) as the Mailing List’s equivalent of what IM is for the email: never going to replace it, but sometimes easier to deal with. It’s probably a good thing somewhat given that we’re still using IRC as the main many-to-many communication channel… and that’s not something I definitely like (for the multitude of shortcomings of the IRC protocol). On the other hand, I find this quite crippled by the fact there are no ways to define groups, or lists, of contacts (it’d be nice to have them, because then I could just “send a wave” to the Gentoo developers in there to ask for some help or plan something out, and so on); somewhat a strange thing to lack, given that both Facebook and Twitter seems to have taken pride in implementing those lists in the months that passed between the Wave announce and the actual opening of the public beta.

One interesting thing is that, while Google implemented a new schema for addresses (@googlewave.com) – which sounds quite pointless to me, one thing I liked about Google Talk is that it allowed me to use the same address for both email, Jabber and MSN – it is adding by default the Google Talk contacts to the Google Wave contact list as they register. I guess this can be considered a minimum feature share (the same contact thing applies to Google Reader subscribers). But what I definitely liked about all that is the way it handles the contacts’ names.

For those who actually set up a proper name in their Google profile, Google Wave uses by default the First Name for display (so you’d probably find me as Diego Elio — or Diego, I’m not sure); though, when there are more than one contact with the same name, it displays the start of the surname as well (so I got Jason S and Jason A in my contacts right now). Some other software should probably learn from that. And that means both open source and proprietary software.

All in all, what I can judge for now is mostly the interface at a first glance; while my contact list is starting to fill up, I don’t see anything in there yet that makes it more usable than a standard IM chat… it might have been even less useful if Jabber/GTalk had working multi-user chats, akin to MSN’s or Skype’s (don’t get me started with the “usability” of Jabber rooms). The fact that it needs the page to stay open (and the fact that the JavaScript in it seem to slow Firefox down positively — I guess that’s their main reason to push for Chrome at this point, or the other way around Wave is their way to push for Chrome), really makes the whole thing a lot less useful in the whole; even just adding a bot to GTalk to tell you when Waves went updated would have been much more useful.

And finally, just one little, tiny note for Google: why on earth you cannot seem to find a single interface style between different applications? Already Google Reader and Gmail have different interfaces; Wave has a drastically different one as well; Google Code even have the navigation bar on the right (when all the rest have it on the left). The two services that have the most common interface seem to be Gmail and Google Calendar, but there are quite a few subtle differences between the two… and that anyway only applies to the default Gmail theme, anyway.

One thought on “Some notes about Google Wave

  1. The whole idea of “you need to have the page open” breaks the deal for me. I mean, what’s the point of having either a separate browser window or a tab always open? What is the difference to having a separate process on my computer – especially considering how Chrome works? So instead of having things in my taskbar – easily accessible mind you – I have it in browser tabs. Or in my taskbar as a separate process. What does Wave accomplish that there aren’t any existing services for already?It just doesn’t make any sense to me. The whole thing smells of google-hype – and no matter how many times you spray perfume on a turd, it will still be a turd. :)

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