Riding the crest of a (Google) Wave

I’m probably more excited about this than anyone sane really ought to be, but I now have access to the preview version of Google’s new collaboration tool, Google Wave.

Over the past couple of weeks, Google has sent out invites to 100,000 people, who in turn are allowed to invite a further eight people to join them in this initial testing phase. I’ve been invited by one of the 100,000 (one of our e-channel team in the office), which makes me one of a (relatively) small community of fewer than a million people worldwide who have access to this public beta release.

Have I said yet how excited I am about this?

Here’s why. According to the blurb at wave.google.com:

Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

Basically, it is an online tool which combines aspects of the functionality of email, instant messaging, collaboration tools such as NetMeeting and Google Docs, and allows groups of people to message, chat, and work collaboratively on documents and projects together – and here’s the killer – in real time.

The possibilities are endless.

At work, project teams based in disparate locations can work on presentations and reports together at the same time, without needing to send updated copies back and forth or worrying about version control – a bit like NetMeeting, but where everyone can simultaneously control the desktop and edit on-screen content. (If, like me, you work for a multinational corporation and regularly have to deal with counterparts in different offices or even countries, the benefits should be obvious.)

And outside of the workplace, I can see all sorts of possibilities for collaborative blogging and publishing. In particular, Wave’s ‘playback’ functionality, will allow you to join a conversation late and watch the history of an edited document replay in front of you. (How cool is that?)

Those are just a couple of examples of how Google Wave could revolutionise the way we collaborate with others on both work and personal projects. I’m sure many more will develop as Wave and its users become ever more sophisticated.

While Wave will never replace face-to-face communication, it could easily represent a quantum leap in terms of facilitating remote co-working and information sharing. I’m looking forward to getting to grips with it.