Google Wave is a hodgepodge of e-mail, photo sharing, chat
Ever feel like you have information overload?
You start Gmail to find a few dozen new messages, thousands of spams and a bunch of friends shouting at you via instant message the moment you sign-in.
Then, you hop over to Picasa, Google's photo-sharing software, to find your family and friends have just uploaded hundreds of snapshots of their trip to Aruba or of your baby cousin.
Finally, you make a pit stop in Google Docs to see that your co-worker has added a few new documents that need your approval.
Could Google Wave, the new product that the company announced today at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, help us cut through the noise?
Probably not. The app just dumps everything onto one page.
The interface should be familiar to Gmail users -- just with a lot more stuff. If you've checked out the iGoogle custom home page, that should give you a better idea of the hyper-integration that Google is going for.
Wave displays your e-mail in one column and your incoming photos in another. Folders sit on the left side-bar followed by contacts, which you can access to start new communications, called "waves." And with ...
... the help of developers, feeds from Facebook, Twitter and just about any social network could also find themselves plunked down somewhere in Wave's cluttered interface.
Wave takes Gmail's concept of threaded e-mail conversations to a whole new level. Every chain of data -- be it a photo with comments or a series of messages related to one topic -- travels together.
So, if you invite a new participant to the discussion, that person will see all of the related information that came before his or her arrival -- and be able to add his or her two cents to any part of the conversation, not just at the bottom of the thread.
One interesting feature is the ability to watch as someone types. We're not talking about how most chat clients tell you when a friend is typing. You can literally watch in real time as each letter appears on the page and marvel at how slowly your dad types using his trademarked index-finger-poking strategy.
Google is calling Wave "the e-mail of the future." Considering that we keep reading reports about how young people say e-mail is dead, there's probably no better time for this than now. But if e-mail is dying, Google had better hope that Wave becomes "the e-communication of the future," not e-mail.
And sure, these changes certainly constitute a big step for the decades-old idea of e-mail. But will it be interoperable with existing e-mail providers, or are you stuck on the Wave?
-- Mark Milian