I thought I’d take a shot at riffing on Google Wave, “a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web”, according to its creators. But before we get into the details, just to get into the mood, check out this BBC video — a gorgeous slow motion view of a surfer on the perfect wave. Wow:
Or see the high definition (HD) version here. It’s worth it.
That was also my first reaction to Google Wave, well, “wow” in lower case. It’s an evolutionary step that rhymes with so many parallel developments all around the net that it already seems inevitable just a week after its presentation.
I am most interested in watching just how open source the Wave platform will actually be. And just how open the API’s and protocols will be. I think we have good reason to be optimistic that they will remain true to the spirit of openness because it is also in their interest to do so.
Why is that? Well, the more that Wave’s protocols and syntax are open, the faster it will grow with a developer community going out there and building tools, containers and services with wild abandon. Do you think that Google might be positioned rather well to provide search within the Wave universe? Messages, media, documents, location and social graphs all crawlable. This looks to be an, um, a challenge for our privacy protection. Can we get some of you smart developers thinking about that now? Thanks, and please revert soonest!
Compare this scenario to today’s realtime darling Twitter. (Sarcasm? yeah just a little bit, but I am a Twitter member and have gotten a huge amount of value from it.) The Twitterverse consists of a central platform, a basic hosted service on the platform and an extremely active ecosystem of third party clients and applications that make it just barely usable.
In what other environment is there great competition among free client applications? Email comes first to mind and let’s not forget instant messaging. In both cases there is huge value obtained from the fact that the protocol is standard and open. It was not always so in instant messaging land, and still not universally the case, but today I can use Pidgin, Meebo, Digsby, Adium or Trillian to talk to my Jabber, MSN, ICQ, Yahoo, iChat and AOL friends on one roster. So that seems to be where Twitter is headed — to be a protocol, and the biggest platform on the block adhering to that protocol.
I am hoping that Wave will be the catalyst to bring about the birth of a thousand new Twitters, truly open protocol and evolving realtime micro-messaging services, accessible through third party clients. XMPP has worked this way for years and it’s not for nothing that underneath Wave you find the XMPP protocol.