Page last updated at 08:30 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 09:30 UK

Google invites users to join Wave

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News

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Rory Cellan-Jones talks to the developers of Google's 'next-generation' messenger service

Google Wave, which combines e-mail, instant messaging and wiki-style editing will go on public trial today.

The search giant hopes the tool, described as "how e-mail would look if it were invented today", will transform how people communicate online.

It will be open to 100,000 invitees from 1600BST, each of whom can nominate five further people to "join the Wave".

The tool is also open source, meaning third party developers can use the code to build new applications.

The developer behind Wave described it as "a communication and collaboration tool".

"It struck us that e-mail is still the main communication tool on the web, which seemed remarkable given that it is 20-year-old technology," said Lars Rasmussen, who, alongside his brother Jens, was the brains behind Google Maps.

In designing Wave, the brothers took as a starting point the idea of "a conversation sitting in a cloud".

"We found we could build a flexible tool with a surprising amount of functionality," Mr Rasmussen told BBC News.

Screen shot of Google Wave
Google Wave combines IM, e-mail and social networking features

Such functions includes real-time typing.

This means people can see a comment being written character by character and can formulate their answer to a question before a fellow 'Waver' has even finished asking it.

Mr Rasmussen acknowledges that this feature could be annoying, but thinks it is also a great time-saver.

For those unsure whether they want all their Wave friends to see exactly what they are writing, when they are writing it, the developers are working on a draft mode which will allow the real-time aspect to be switched off .

Unlike traditional instant messenger (IM) conversations continue even once everyone has logged out. This means that those invited to a Wave conversation but not currently online, can read the message strand in full at a later date.

Sharing photos

More radical is the inclusion of wiki-style editing tools.

All messages can be edited at any point by members of the conversation and a Playback facility allows everyone to see exactly who has edited what and at what time.


I have been accused of being pathologically optimistic about it but I can't see why people wouldn't want it
Lars Rasmussen

Google, a famously collaborative firm, now writes all its design documents in Wave.

Wave also makes it very easy to share photos, which can simply be dragged from the desktop onto the Wave platform.

"If you are planning a trip. you can talk about it and plan it in Wave and then share all the photos at the end," said product manager Stephanie Hannon.

Google Wave runs in most browsers, with the notable exception of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE). Users of IE will have to download a plug-in, known as Chrome Frame to use the application.

Microsoft does not recommend installing this plug-in, claiming it compromises security.

As IE is still the dominant browser, its incompatibility with Wave could affect take-up of the platform.

Google insists the failure of Wave in IE is not an excuse to promote its own browser, Chrome. It said the developers worked "very hard" at trying to make it work in IE.

Much of the code for Wave is written in HTML 5, the next-generation of web language.

Surfer riding a wave
Initial users can invite five other people to join Wave

In a nod to social-networking site Facebook, there are already a host of applications for Wave, including Sudoku and Chess.

"We are now trying to persuade someone to build a crossword puzzle," said Mr Rasmussen.

He acknowledges that the success of the platform will depend on how many people are willing to join.

"Without other people adopting Wave it will never take off," he said.

"I have been accused of being pathologically optimistic about it but I can't see why people wouldn't want it," he said.

His enthusiasm seems to be being borne out to a certain degree. Since Wave was announced at a Google developers' conference in May, one million people have registered interested.

Wave will have a full consumer launch early next year.



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