So I received my invite to Google Wave one week ago, and have been playing with it off and on since then. It’s a fascinating platform, not quite what I expected, and it’s been really interesting to think about potential applications and uses of the platform.
My initial impression upon logging in was that it was a typical Google app, visually very clean, colorful, and smooth. I had some idea of how things worked from watching their tech demo video, so I began to play around with creating and joining waves. For those of you who haven’t geeked out to this as much as I have yet, “waves” are the individual threads (documents?) that the platform is built to create and share. The wave can be just yours, which would make it functionally similar to an office document, or you can collaborate on it by inviting other users to join the wave, or by making it public. Once a wave has multiple users, the users can edit the wave itself, either by changing the “base” wave or by adding comments, discussion threads, links, or other media. These individual additions each have their own privacy settings as well, so if I wanted to comment on a wave but only wanted the original author of the wave to see my comment, I could do that. The wave itself remembers each of these edits and the order in which they happened, and so all waves are able to be “replayed” so that the user can see how the document has evolved to the state it is in now.
Needless to say, Wave is very community-oriented. As a simple document creator/editor it is a decent tool, but Google Docs provides a much more versatile and stable interface. Perhaps this will change in the future, but it feels like that is not the primary goal of the Wave team here. As such, it’s not a lot of fun to use or explore until you have other people to communicate with – this is where public waves and friends lists come into play.
The first public wave I tried joining was Lifehacker’s public wave, and I was able to without any difficulty, but this is where I experienced my first big drawback to Wave: it’s laggy. As it is right now, the platform places rather intense demands on the browser and probably the server as well, so joining a wave with hundreds of updates and users was an exercise in frustration as I waited for the page to unlock and let me get back to the calmer seas of my boring inbox. At this point, I cannot even open that particular wave, apparently due to its sheer size and the amount of junk that was dumped in it by all the contributors. While Google has an exceptional record on scalability in their...