Wave is Google's new collaboration and communications software that combines aspects of e-mail, instant messaging, document sharing, blogging and wikis in a single application.
A demonstration of an early version of Wave reportedly drew a standing ovation at Google's I/O developer conference in San Francisco Thursday. While the software isn't expected to be generally available to the public until later this year, Google is reaching out to developers to help the company fine-tune the software and suggest ways it can be used and improved.
Wave will pose a competitive challenge to SharePoint, Microsoft's collaboration and communication software that's generating more than $1 billion in sales, as well as collaboration and communications applications from IBM Lotus and other vendors.
"A 'wave' is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps and more," said Lars Rasmussen, the Google software engineering manager who co-founded the Wave project, in a blog post.
Rasmussen wrote that e-mail mimics "snail mail" and IM is akin to phone calls. But those forms of communications don't tie in well with wikis, blogs, collaborative documents and other newer forms of communication. The idea behind the new Google software is that users can create a "wave" and add people to it. Everyone on that wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets and feeds from other information sources on the Web, Rasmussen said. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. And a "playback" feature will let users rewind the wave and see how it evolved.
Google Wave consists of three layers, according to the blog posting. Google Wave application, now available as a developer preview, is the Web application people will use to access and edit waves. It's based on HTML 5 and built using the Google Web Toolkit. Secondly, Rasmussen said Wave can be considered a platform with a rich set of open APIs that developers can use to embed Wave in other Web services and build extensions that work inside of waves.
Finally, the Google Wave protocol is the underlying format for storing and sharing waves. Google intends to make the Wave code open source to encourage adoption of the protocol.
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