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What is it?

(Pocket-lint) -
It is the next possible stage in the evolution of email from Google, which has also been said to be the next biggest thing in an communication and collaboration tool for today and it runs from inside a web browser much like Gmail.

Wave was first publicly aired in an early beta version at Google's recent symposium and is set to be launched later on this year. It is an open source product and platform that is already two years in the making from Google's Australian offices and will soon be opened up to developers to aid in its development process, all to fulfill its full potential.

It's already been said that Google Wave has been purposely built to rethink the way we all communicate with each other online and will reinvent email for tomorrow's world.

What are the variations of the technology?

So far, all that's been seen is an early preview for developers to use and help develop. It's unsure whether Google will have several versions of Wave, or just the one for all to use. All that's really known at this point is that it will run from inside a web browser possibly from Google's own servers, much like Gmail is today.

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Why should I care?

Email has been around for 40 years, way before the internet was even thought about. The people at Google have set about answering the question – "What would email look like today, if it was invented now?" This takes into account the variety of different methods of communicating that's around today which wasn't around at the time of email's invention, from the likes of SMS, IM, social networking and all the other types of communication that's in practice.

Google Wave is their attempt at answering that very question.

Email today really hasn't changed over all those years, it still just mimics the same way a letter is laid out and sent. Google's Wave is said to change all that, as a message is handled much the same way a conversation is had with a group of people, with the free flow of ideas and messages rather than just the linear format of a letter.

This new way of electronically communicating comes across similar to a forum thread. Where the messages are open, free flowing and linked together in a much more friendly and easy to read way rather than scrolling down through long continuous lines of text in an email, all to find out what various people have typed as a reply to the original message.

With Wave you can simply add a reply to any part of the conversation or text in a very easy, clear and distinct graphical way which then shows the reply is from a separate person and is then included in the original message all very clearly.

This is an alternative to isolating which part of the email is needed to have a reply, then manually editing the email, adding the reply to that part of the text and then making sure the person the email is being sent to knows full well who the reply is from.

Wave is all geared up to easily keep tabs on the structure of an email. Everyone's seen or had an email in the past with more than 10 people contributing to it over a number of days or weeks, where the original point or subject has been lost in the myriad of confusing replies from various people.

One of the key aspects of making this possible is that it's a hosted open source application, where multiple email systems are all mostly incompatible with each other and costly to implement.

As a reply is added to a message, or one of these Waves, the text even appears in real time inside the original message by instantly manifesting on all the recipients computer screens if the message is open - much the same way as MSN messenger works, only from inside an email.

This combines the functionality of instant messaging from the likes of Microsoft's Messenger, with email. Only this shows that Google's Wave has many tools inside of its software, which in turn keeps track of all and any conversations or messages exchanged. It also saves searching in many different places, just to keep track of what was said when, to whom and what was actually typed.

There are even some aspects to Wave that extends beyond the features that are normally seen inside IM software and email. One of the more useful aspects of the instant messaging functions inside of the Wave conversations is when each character is typed, it appears immediately inside of the message rather than waiting for the return key to be pressed at the end of each sentence.

Another useful aspect is when someone else is added to the email conversation late, all in order to receive all messages they usually have to scroll down to the very start of the message and read backwards over all the interactions. Inside of Wave, they have a playback function where a new recipient can just press a play button, this replays the goings on of all the email interactions as if it was recorded by a video camera.

There are many more aspects of Google's Wave that builds upon how email is evolving, from the usefulness of collaborating on messages, to the embedding of Google's Wave on to websites and blogs with all of the aspects to the Wave acting the exact same way, to attachments also instantly appearing to all the recipients in emails and there's mobile phone clients too.

What's a good example in practice?

As this is still very early in its development cycle not a great deal has been seen by the general public, or has really been shown off to everyone. Developers though have been given accounts to Google Wave, just to try out its features and help in aiding in its success and development.

Although some images, screen shots and demos can be seen for time being over at http://wave.google.com.

Is there a competing technology that I should be aware of?

There is of course other email software around and instant messaging software too, none of which has the interoperability of both aspects within one suite.

Some of the larger software companies such as Microsoft and IBM do have suites for the collaboration of documents, work loads and their ilk. These are costly to purchase and license, even more so to run and implement - where as Google Wave is open source.

What is in store for the future?

Next on the agenda is the further development of Google's Wave, by themselves and the Google community of developers to create more feature sets and aspects to the software all from being inspired with what's already been worked upon.

There's also opening up the platform to more and more users, much like the same way Google did with Gmail. It's hoped that this will be within the year, with a view to see more and more features from what's already been seen and aired at Google's recent symposium for developers.

Google has developed many extensions for the Wave platform, much like extensions inside Firefox. All of them work like widgets or the small applications that run inside Windows sidebar. They're working on more each and every day, as are outside developers too and all to increase the potential of the platform itself.

This could very well replace the corporate communication system, if not for the larger ones then definitely for smaller companies or just aspects or departments of a company.

It could very well be useful for collaborative work or just replacing the standard email systems, or even their own Gmail as a way for conversing as they're hoping it be could the one communication tool to suit all needs.

Writing by Rob Kerr.