Google unveiled its Next Big Thing at the I/O Developer conference this week. Geeks everywhere are drooling all over their keyboards, waiting to get their twitchy fingers on Google Wave. A project more than four years in the making, its primary goal is to bring all communication needs together in a single, fluid experience.
A “wave” is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.
Here’s how it works: In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It’s concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use “playback” to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.
Sounds pretty cool…but, also sounded a little familiar…and then I remembered another recent announcement, from another big gig company: Microsoft Vine, blending Twitter, Facebook and Google in its own attempt to be the Next Big Thing.
They are not identical offerings, but they are trending in the same direction and there is some overlap. Microsoft is taking a more traditional approach, looking at a particular type of communication between smaller groups, and trying to make that multi-dimensional with mapping, alerts and location (see the demo here). Google is using a much broader definition, thinking about communication tied to personal interaction, work and collaboration, in addition to streamlining tools we currently use. If Google succeeds, email, IM, texting and twittering may merge into a single experience.
With Wave and Vine in the works and the continuing Twitter buzz, we see what our future holds. The next phase of digital innovation will focus on social and real-time aspects of communication, search and mobility. With hope, that means greater flexibility and interaction using fewer tools and devices.
Who will conquer this world? When you add Wave to Android, Chrome, Maps, Earth, Gmail, Gtalk and (of course) Search…the smart money’s still on Google. I say that begrudgingly because, at the end of the day, it all comes at a price. Big Brother’s not watching. Google is.