Note: A version of this article first appeared on agencyside.net. agencyside helps ad agencies become experts in the digital marketing space. They provide high-quality, current training, coaching, staffing and consulting exclusively to ad agencies.
When word first trickled out across the blogosphere that Google was prepping the launch of an online, real-time communications platform dubbed “Wave”, tech and social media folks went gaga. It was like pigs at a freshly loaded trough.
Some ad agency veterans called it a “communications tidal wave”. Others said it would replace email and instant messaging. Simply put, techies and agency people couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new tool because they thought it would radically change the way people communicate and collaborate online.
Although in its current form Google Wave will not fundamentally change the way the world communicates online, it offers a never before seen opportunity for people to collaborate with peers in real-time all within their internet browser.
What is Google Wave? The nitty- gritty details.
Google Wave is a personal communication and collaboration tool. Think of the application as a mashup of instant messaging, email, wiki and social networking. Users can initiate waves, a fancy word for conversations, and invite as many people into the wave to discuss or collaborate on any given subject.
Once inside the wave, conversations happen in real-time. Users within any given wave can see as others type, edit or delete text and content. Users can collaborate on documents, share an image of a map to their upcoming meeting or embed the latest popular video on YouTube.
Beyond simple map and video embeds, Wave offers users the ability to quickly drag-and-drop in extensions dubbed “gadgets and robots”. If you’re inside a Wave and think a conference call adds to the productivity of the conversation, drop in the Ribbit Conference Call gadget and instantly conference with the wave participants. Sometimes that phone call isn’t enough and a video chat would help the conversation. Simply drag the Video Chat Experience gadget into the wave and you can start a video chat with anyone in the wave.
Although there is a robust community working on these extensions, they can be created by virtually anyone. So if your business thinks some type of additional functionality would impact your organization, custom extensions can be created when needed.
Under the hood, Wave is one of the first widely used online applications that is built using HTML5, the next major revision of HTML. HTML5 has given Google the ability to provide users with robust functionality all within the browser. Users do not need to download any plug-ins to experience robust functionality within waves.
The opportunities exist with real-time collaboration.
The opportunities for businesses exist in the real-time and robust collaboration functionality that Wave brings to the table. No longer do teams have to work through instant messaging or email to collaborate on any given project, as Wave provides this functionality all without the linear, instant messaging like conversation that those tools utilize. Wave’s inline reply capability allows project team members to contribute to the conversation only where needed.
Although numerous examples of how businesses can leverage Wave exist, here’s a few to ponder in an agency environment. PR teams no longer need rely on a series of emails or versioned documents to build and edit a press release. Simply add the client brief or press release draft to a new wave, invite the team to the wave and individuals can contribute edits and build the press release collaboratively. Media buyers and planners, especially those in the digital space, are always searching for ways to optimize a media plan or understand why certain metrics are trending up or down. Those teams can now post questions or concerns within a wave and collaborate on solutions, saving boat loads of time swapping numerous emails between team members.
Real-time collaboration and non-linear conversation also presents an interesting efficiency for those using wave. Instead of 50% of your time being spent on reading and 50% on responding, Wave allows 100% of your time reading and writing due to the real-time nature of the platform. This dramatically speeds up the pace of a conversation.
Developers Will Pave the Way for Wave’s Success
Google has been very honest about who they believe will make Wave successful, developers. Google provided a robust set of APIs to let developers build upon the initial application and great applications that help people use Wave more efficiently are already trickling out.
Checkout Waveboard. I first learned about Waveboard from Jason Falls’ email newsletter. It’s a great Mac and iPhone app that gives you the stuff you’d expect from an instant messaging like application. The most important of which is notifications when new messages or waves appear. You’ll get the same notifications with the iPhone app via push notifications.
So why isn’t everyone waving?
You might be asking yourself based on the information above why wouldn’t everyone want to wave. Beyond the invite only status, Google Wave’s biggest downfall is how overwhelming the application can be to new users. The vast majority of people are accustomed to linear, instant-messaging like conversations. Wave changes all that.
Instead of simple linear conversations where the newest message appears at the top (or bottom), collaboration becomes tree-like with the ability for users to add to the conversation anywhere within the wave in real-time. This means one user could be responding to one part of the conversation when another could be in a totally different part, all at the same time. Wave’s inline reply capability turns conversations into branch-like structures. This non-linear nature of the conversation can be confusing and overwhelming to new users.
Beyond that, the plain vanilla application comes with no notifications unless you log in and check on a regular basis. Waveboard (see above) will help solve that.
Early days and invites.
It’s certainly early days for Wave, but the application has the chance to make a significant impact if new users continue to adopt it and developers continue making improving it for the greater good.
If you’ve had the opportunity to check out Wave, what do you think? Will it change the way we communicate online? Is your business using it? If so, how? If you haven’t received an invite, I’ve got 20. First come, first serve. Simply leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.