Emerging Technology

Google steps up social media push with Google Wave

Patrick Stafford /

Two Sydney-based Google employees are helping push the company into Web 2.0, by inventing a new online portal that mimics features from social networking giants such as Facebook.

The two employees, who are also partly responsible for the creation of the popular Google Maps portal, created the Google Wave in an attempt to replace conventional email platforms such as Microsoft Outlook.

Google Wave was first displayed at Google’s annual developers’ conference overnight, with company co-founder Sergey Brin saying that Wave gives users “a form of interaction that you would not have previously imagined”.

The replacement for standard email uses a combination of email, instant messaging and document editing features – all of which are currently separate applications under the Google umbrella.

The portal allows users to simultaneously edit documents, chat over both text and video and send invitations for events to multiple contacts, similar to features seen on Facebook.

Wave also allows participants to see what other users are writing as they type a message, allowing faster communication. Users can drag photos, documents and other files from their hard drives into a conversation with another user, known as a ‘Wave’, as the conversation occurs.

Wave is contained entirely within a web browser, and as a “protocol” can be hosted on a company’s servers and tweaked to that workplace’s specifications and needs.

Google Wave

The first display of the Wave portal at the conference even included a post which incorporated updates made on social networking site Twitter.

Wave co-founder and Google Australia software engineer Lars Rasmussen, who developed the portal with brother Jens, wrote in a Google blog post that he wanted to create the next step of email.

“A ‘Wave’ is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps and more,” he wrote.

“Why do we have to live with divides between different types of communication – email versus chat, or conversations versus documents? Could a single communications model span all or most of the systems in use on the web today, in one smooth continuum? How simple could we make it?”

The Google Wave portal will remain an open-source product, with the company encouraging developers to download the application’s code and create new features.

But a release date is still awhile away, with the company saying it will spend several months perfecting the design before Google Wave is available for public download.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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