Wave Goodbye to E-mail?

Late last year, getting a Google Wave invite was reminiscent of getting a Cabbage Patch Kid in 1983. It was the newest gizmo everyone just had to have. As a geek, I was one of the kids begging the loudest. Thankfully, one of our readers from across the pond (Paul Howard, thanks!) sent me an invite, and I cleared my schedule for the product that was going to change the way I communicate. Only, it didn’t.

I’ll admit, some of the reasons are not Google’s fault. First, off, it wasn’t even in beta yet. I also didn’t really have anything I wanted to communicate with anyone. Even with those two things in mind, I did expect it to be fun to experiment with. Quite frankly, it seemed more cumbersome than helpful.

In watching the demonstrations on the Google Web site, it seems apparent Google Wave was designed to solve some problems we’ve all faced in e-mail. Where I think Google may have gone wrong, however, is in trying to solve a problem with additional technology that really we’ve all learned to manage anyway. Sure, Google Wave allows conversations to take place in one section, so everyone can see what’s going on, but we’ve all solved that years ago with “reply all” and “forward”. Yes, Wave allows for embedded photos, videos and so on, but let’s be honest, we’ve all been attaching files and/or links for years.

Google Wave Screenshot

So what do you think? Am I off-base with my assessment? Is Google Wave changing the way you communicate? If so, I’d love to hear about it. You’ll have to send me an e-mail though (or comment here), because even though I got my Google version of the Cabbage Patch Kid, mine is still in the box.


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.


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My company has drunk the Google Kool Aid

Anonymous's picture

I'm in an ecommerce company and we have definitely drunk the Kool Aid most of the people in the office have a wave invite, I'm involved in about 3-4 waves a day, my manager probabaly closer to 10 and the sales director many many more.

We use email, trac, Skype and Google Docs but wave has become an integral part of what we're planning and what we're doing.

Now where's my damn Nike's

Wave is the future, just watch the movie Serenety.

Anonymous's picture

Just watched Serenty and the Firefly series again. When they communicate they use 'waves'. :-)

Wave of the future of open source

David V's picture

The future of wave isn't necessarily the UI that you see in your browser. It's the underlying open-source federated server technology. Imagine a federated wave server running on hardware the size of your Nexus One?


"What do we need? We need a really good webserver you can put in your pocket and plug in any place. In other words, it shouldn’t be any larger than the charger for your cell phone and you should be able to plug it in to any power jack in the world and any wire near it or sync it up to any wifi router that happens to be in its neighborhood. It should have a couple of USB ports that attach it to things. It should know how to bring itself up. It should know how to start its web server, how to collect all your stuff out of the social networking places where you’ve got it. It should know how to send an encrypted backup of everything to your friends’ servers. It should know how to microblog. It should know how to make some noise that’s like tweet but not going to infringe anybody’s trademark. In other words, it should know how to be you …oh excuse me I need to use a dangerous word - avatar - in a free net that works for you and keeps the logs. You can always tell what’s happening in your server and if anybody wants to know what’s happening in your server they can get a search warrant."


Lots of potential; not executed yet

mwspitzer's picture

I've been using Wave for about 6 months now and have a decent number of contacts. Mostly I find it easier to communicate with my wife during the day; between us it actually seems to work better than e-mail. In general, though, it's not yet a replacement. I think the technology they've developed on the back end is excellent and will find its say into mainstream usage.

The problem right now is the implementation on the front end. I don't blame Google for that. This is the first implementation and I think they've already learned a lot from what went right and what went wrong. I'm continuing to use it so I can provide more and more feedback. What you see on Google Wave now is not what I think you'll see in a year. As they refine the interface it'll become more usable and, ultimately, could replace e-mail, IM, etc., like they intended.

For now, I'm just giving it time, but I'm limiting who I invite to people I know will provide good feedback and criticism rather than people I know who will play with it for an hour and never bring it up again.

Google Wave

John Abbott's picture

I think Google wave has a potential for project management. However I thought it might be a tool to use for my Linux user group. HA! Fat chance its invitations only and I only got five invites for a group of 80.

If it stays in invitation only status long enough it will die a death by starvation. I don't know ANYONE that has a wave account except the guys I let in with my account.

I haven't even looked at my Wave account for a couple of months.

communication breakdown

crlsgms's picture

for colaborative text, theres nothing more straight foward than IRC. my co-workers got into the hype for wave, but its too white-elephant for me to use for simple chatting... as for attaching content, email does it very well.

let us hope that wave dont lost its surfers, or its water complex.

On IRC, I remember a huge

Anonymous's picture

On IRC, I remember a huge frenzy to get Wave, only for people to think "All that hype for THIS?" In my opinion it was all hype but nothing really to deliver on that.

Content on Google's servers

Anonymous's picture

Problem is that it's a great idea but it's all on Google's servers!

Actually, the wave protocol

r0000t's picture

Actually, the wave protocol has been released as an open source protocol and you can develop and deploy your own wave server, so that statement is not completely correct.

The only proprietary part of "Google Wave" is the client UI.

Right on the money ...

Iveen Duarte's picture

Your appreciations are correct, google created a very much anticipated demand for this ubercool service, however, the wave wasn't quite ready yet. Then it took forever to get an invite, and when I finally got it, none of the people I know had wave, so it rendered the service useless.

Later, I got the ability to invite people, but It was too late, the momentum was already over.

If Wave was so cool

James Ritala's picture

If Wave was so cool, then why did google have to come up with BUZZ? Buzz is way too much cooler than Wave (though it's got only a handful of features), and it's a whole lot simpler to use than Wave. In fact, the thing I liked the most about Buzz is that it is integrated into my existing Gmail so I didn't need to 'open' and new account, and neither do i have to remember 'another' URL in my head.

Like what most guys here are saying, if Wave is integrated into Gmail then we might consider using it.


Anonymous's picture

I am managing two different projects (each of those with 3 people) and wave works nicely.

What google should do is promote the extensions, some of them are really nice and usefull and also do the integration into gmail.

I believe they will do both once google wave reaches a more stable state (althought I have not experienced "wave not in sync" for months now)

A solution to a problem we don't really have

smotsie's picture

I could have written Shawn's article (have you been reading my mind, Shawn?) I was equally excited by the original video demo and desperate for an invitation, then once I had an account immensely disappointed that I had no-one to communicate with and nothing I wanted to say that I couldn't already do with email, Twitter, Facebook and IM.

One thing I am sure would have made a massive difference to me - if it had been possible to simply switch Wave on for my existing three Gmail apps accounts so I could Wave to my Wavy friends and Email those who didn't have Wave. Then I would have used it, but I really didn't want yet another email address! Of course, Google could still redeem themselves by doing just this. Frankly, I hope they do.


I personally don't see much

Kevin Hartley's picture

I personally don't see much use for Wave currently. However, I can definitely see great potential (esp. for long distance tabletop RPGs...e.g. DnD). That being said, I think the majority of the issues with Wave are that Google has tried to make it completely separate from your email. If they were to completely integrate it with the various other Google products (email, docs, reader, etc.), it would be more useful.

You mean you still use email?

the non-verified Anonymous, who is, parenthetically:'s picture

Wave has totally changed my approach to email, which I no longer use. In fact, my wave inbox is so frequently overloaded that I have had to move to checking it over four times in the course of a single year. I believe that, by now (I am not making this up), I have received a complete total of three waves. And that's only counting the last six months; if you add in the time I've used Wave before that, it brings the total to over two.

If any of you want an invite, you'd better hurry, because I have only 342 left.

Wave and Buzz aren't doing it for me

Jamespyles's picture

I agree. Maybe I'm just habit bound, but after the initial excitement wore off, it seemed more work to use Wave than anything else, and I reverted back to my old patterns. On the other hand, when I encountered twitter, I was off and running and I never looked back, so it's not like I can't incorporate new methods of communication.

Assuming Wave matures at some point and more people I know start using it, I'll probably end up revisiting Wave.

I've had my Wave account for

r0000t's picture

I've had my Wave account for 6+ months and I think there's a reason why it's still in invite/preview/beta status. Everyone expects Google Wave to be it's own separate app.

I personally believe Google will integrate Google Wave's technology and interface into Gmail....surprise surprise?

If you think about it, Wave is nothing more then a mash-up of Google's current apps (gmail, gtalk, gdocs, etc..), with a little twist of new technology and a fresh new interface.

That's my prediction though, I guess only time will tell.

Some of the ideas from Google

Anonymous's picture

Some of the ideas from Google Wave appear to be finding their way into other products. The recent update to Google Docs features real-time collaborative character-by-character editing which almost certainly came from Wave. I have a wave account but can't come up with anything to use it for.

exactly it

Anonymous's picture

I've thought from my first use of Wave that it's a technology not a solution. It in itself is of little value but as a tool used in other contexts becomes useful; just for me I've found no such contexts.

I do like Google's Notebook though.

Takes 2 to tango

Anonymous Coward's picture

I see at least a couple of things wrong with Wave at the moment.
1. It takes at least two to tango. Unless you have critical mass on a particular Wave, it will die out. Reaching that critical mass is difficult.
2. Unix news servers have provided permanence and attachments for years. Some even integrate with email feeds. The problem is: see #1.
3. Google Wave's added value is now/here communication (I can see you type). Other models support not now/not here styles as well. We're a lot more accustomed to the latter.
4. Not sure how this is all going to work out with folks attempting to use this for work-based communication.
5. The metaphor for Wave's creating a "document" is at odds with most people's expectations of what a "document" is. Unless and until Wave can 1) import a Word .doc file (or equivalent, or import from Google Docs) into a blip, or support a better model of shared editing, this disconnect won't go away for a lot of people.

After all this, I am truly rooting for Wave to succeed. Right now, though, it looks like a solution in search of a problem.

tried and failed

beep's picture

I really wanted to give this one a go, and convinced my boss at my last job to get everyone in the tech dept and supporting supervisors to get in on so that discussions and meetings and what not could be done remotely and logged for those of us on holiday, out of office etc etc.

The hurdle we found was that as shawn stated, most of the issues that you could say this 'solves' had already been practically solved in other ways, and it just became more of a novelty, and further on just a hindrance.

I loved the concept, but in execution, i dont think it worked. But google is google, and im sure they and others will find a use for the technology at some point that make a serious difference.

I think it remains to be seen

ScottfromCT's picture

Google Wave is still in a preview stage, I think it has a great deal of potential when more people are able to quickly access it. I don't really see it as a alternative to email, but rather a real time Forum for project-style collaboration.

Once its bugs have been ironed out and made publicly accessible I think we may begin to see some results.

too many input streams

Luis Cerezo's picture

I would agree. I couldn't get into it, and it seems I am not alone. With all the different input streams we already have, email, IM, twitter, FB, I already have a hard time connecting with people and keeping it all straight. Now, I have to convince people to get another "social" app? forget it! I can't give the google wave invites away with a free dinner! (still have 11.. free cat comes with it. get 4 for 1)

Work on a single place to manage the input streams. GV is a winner in my book. To wave, i could say bye bye.

The only thing that I see

pboin's picture

The only thing that I see coming out of Wave ( and Facebook ) is a more reliable vetting of identity. The establishment of relationships and friend-to-friend links means that spam is difficult-to-impossible to send.

nobody uses it

Anonymous's picture

nobody uses it

I am absolutely certain that

Anonymous's picture

I am absolutely certain that big lumps of wave will be integrated with the other "Google experience" once it reaches beta (it's still preview).

Some of the elements from wave just got implementet into google docs, so the failure is more of the model where this technique is being kept in a separate box, rather than a failure of the technique itself.

wave.google.com might eventually die, but soo much of the tricks they've been trying out there (they = we) will live on in some morphed form.

Maybe ahead of it's time?

Tom Willis's picture

Only time will tell, but maybe the general population just isn't ready for it, and maybe they will be someday. I see great potential for wave myself because though I have managed my email to overcome the problems wave addresses out of habit+skill learned over many years, My habits require that I manage other peoples habits to fall in line with my so called "policies", I would much rather have software do it than constantly teaching my mom good email etiquette.

The big drawback to wave is that it takes at least 2 participants, and that's been the challenge all along that keeps me from using it fully.

There was one important difference

Gedece's picture

The one thing that changed in wave was the introduction of forum type permamency and flow, and the messaging of instant messages to the email system.

sadly, it didn't catch.