Google Wave was supposed to be the hottest thing since sliced bread, but it’s really not that great. I’ve been using it for a while and I’m just not that impressed. It’s still in a development phase, so who knows? It may be completely different on official release and really blow everyone away, but as it stands now it’s interesting at the most, and damn sure not an e-mail killer.
It’s got its perks, like being able to drop in all sorts of files and embed videos, but that’s really nothing revolutionary. The ability to watch people type in real time is a frill, but not really anything to get excited about. In fact, I would say it’s a step backward, because if anyone wants to use this seriously, for business purposes, then it’s going to cause embarrassment. When you’re typing a document you go back and forth rewording things, fixing spelling mistakes, or reworking sections. Well, in Google Wave other people can watch you struggle along, or if they aren’t there to watch it in real time they can use the Playback feature to watch you do it anyway.
Speaking of business, one thing I heard about Google Wave is that people think it can be used for company wikis. Well, maybe. I’m sure there are other platforms that are more apt for something like that though. The Waves and Blips just don’t seem conducive to hosting documents. They don’t seem all that conducive to sharing large amounts of information or pictures in either, unless you have a very big or very high resolution screen. It’s not bad when I’m using my 1680×1050 17″ MacBook Pro to view, but on my wife’s laptop, which doesn’t have a widescreen and runs on a lower resolution, the content often runs off the right edge of the Wave frame.
Now, let’s talk about another aspect of Google Wave that’s supposed to be game changing: the ability to edit other people’s Waves. That’s great in theory, except that you get people editing things out that you don’t want edited out. Or they add things you don’t want added. The worst part is that there’s no authenticity to who input the information. Sure, the particular Blip will say who all has contributed to it, but who said what exactly? You could use Playback for that I suppose, but when you’re looking at a Wave that’s had 600 changes or more, it becomes pretty rough trying to sift through it all. Not to mention it’s slow. In short, I think this image can sum up this problem for us fairly well:
Daniel Lewis erased an entire Wave because he didn’t like the subject and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
That brings me to another point. Google Wave is heavy on resources. It spins up your fans pretty quickly and will drag at times, especially in larger Waves. It’s probably going to be hard to run this on any older systems. My wife’s laptop is only two years old and was struggling in larger Waves, most especially with the Playback feature going.
I think Google reached way too far with this one. I think a much simpler solution would’ve just been to create a hosted e-mail that you could invite other people to look at and comment on. Well, that’s sort of like a blog post. Or, you could just use Google Docs, which already allows multiple users to view and edit documents. The only part of Google Wave that really seems neat to me is that you can share files. Though, that’s not really that special. You can’t modify the contents of the attachments within Wave, so you still wind up with say, 10 people opening it and making changes and then re-attaching 10 different versions.
I suppose Google Wave does pull a lot of things together, but it just feels way too crowded and way too complicated. This is the age of easy. People want things that are fast, simple to learn, simple to use, elegant, and time saving. Wave is a great idea, but I just don’t see myself getting all that much use out of it, even with all of my friends aboard.