Google Wave: The next wave of social media?

Google has recently announced their new product, Google Wave.

Update (October 2009):

Google has the next step: releasing 100,000 test copies of Wave to developers. Expect it to be launching pretty soon.

Table of contents:

  1. What is Google Wave
  2. Conversations
  3. Social Media
  4. Open API
  5. Developing using Java or Python
  6. Embedding into websites
  7. Potential Downsides to Google Wave
  8. Links to other Google Wave Resources

So what is it exactly?

Google Wave is supposed to replace traditional email systems and improve them by using more interactive, live, on-the-fly methods to deliver information. Traditional emails work on a basis of typing a message, potentially styling the message, and hitting “send” and off it goes to the recipient. Traditional instant messaging systems work by typing a message, hitting enter and automatically sending to the recipient for instant delivery. Wave offers a hybrid of the two. If both people are logged on, they can open a conversation (called a wave) and send a message to the recipient which will not only instantly send to the recipient, but the recipient can (optionally) see every letter when you type it and write back instantaneously. This speeds up conversation drastically instead of having to wait for others to reply to press enter to start writing your response. Given that the recipient is offline, they will receive the wave in their inbox in bolded.
Uh, so it’s very similar to MSN Messenger mixed with Gmail. Messenger offers the “offline message delivery” if the recipient is offline. However, to send something longer you have to go through the process of sending them an email. Lets face it, in a real life conversation, there’s no difference between small talk and in-depth conversations, and there shouldn’t be a void in the length of an IM conversation. Wave combines the two.


Gmail already offers “conversations”, making replying to emails easier to keep track of where the conversation is, like a message board. Wave allows you to reply exclusively to certain parts of the email, making the response clearer and precise to which part they’re talking about. How many times has someone said something, you start replying, and they have a new message prepared so it appears that you reply to the wrong message? The confusion will be gone. Also, email is difficult to attach another person to the conversation. Wave solves this by simply allowing you to add a person, and they can (optionally) see the entire Wave (or restricted bits that you choose) and they even have a “playback” function which will allow them to see the order of messages posted as a video to make it easier for them to reply.

Social Media

Unfortunately social media cuts into our morningly routine to have to check our Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, Last.FM, Behance, Flickr, Message Boards, Hotmail, Gmail, RSS, Analytics, Blog comments etc… every single day. Services like Friendfeed have attempted to unify the sites into a single service to check all your updates; but is lacking the full-functionality that nearly every one of those sites offers. Wave offers an API that can be embedded into such services so they can be allowed to be added to the wave, unifying them all into one screen. Luckily, Wave is open source, so community contributions to the API can make extensions to be much more powerful and be competitive with the features they offer and could potentially replicate or extend to the

original site (like what Hootsuite did for Twitter!). How the services will choose to do this, I don’t know.

Open API

The most glorious part of Wave to most people is it’s API, which can be incorporated or embedded into any website. You can develop API extensions, or simply use the extensions to plug in to your own website (like a wordpress plugin). Featured in the Google Wave video (shown above), they demonstrate even posting comments and information to the blog through a Wave. Wow. The power of this to add comments to blog posts, receive replies like you would

an email or IM message, and reply makes the web more centralized and communicative.


You can develop API extensions using either the Java (tutorial) or Python libraries. Given that you’re a developer, you can download the Java library extension for Wave extensions here, or read the Python documentation as the library hasn’t been released:

  1. Wave Robot Java Client Library Download
  2. Python Google Wave Documentation


Putting Wave apps onto your site sure will be interesting to see how it works for full featured functionality. The Google Wave Tutorial for embedding gives us an idea.

  1. Embed the Javascript (Download here)
    <script src="" type="text/javascript"></script>
  2. The Wave API will always belong in a specified DIV called “waveframe”

    <div id="waveframe" style="width: 500px; height: 100%"></div>
  3. Add the initializing function to start Wave, like jQuery’s $(document).ready

    function initialize() {
          var wavePanel = new WavePanel('');
  4. That’s all that has really been released so far for embedding, but Google mentioned that by adding to the participant conversation will allow the Wave to display publicly. How we will add a participant, we don’t yet know.

Downsides To Google Wave

  1. Google is taking over the world
    Evidently Google is taking over everything. In fact, Google can track spreading diseases based on search terms faster than Health Research Facilities can. The main concern people question is the confidentiality of the information. All the info sits on a Google server. Given that this is plugged into your Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM, Blog, etc, Google will have taken one of the most significant steps to owning saved copies of nearly everything published on the internet. And given that one uses Wave on their Blackberry or smart phone, Google will know everywhere you are.
  2. Google is taking over the world
    Yes, this needs to be said twice.
  3. The Walmart Effect
    Most Social Media sites work by providing advertising to make profits. The problem like services with Wave, is that if people exclusively use it, the advertising on the actual homepage of the service will get less traffic, giving them less money to support and maintain the site. Unless Google has a solution for the companies to embed advertising into the Wave extension, they may be doomed to having significantly less profits, making these services become unavailable and decreasing company profits and increasing Google’s profits.
  4. People may be lazier at typing
    Wave offers a “Natural Language Processing” function that allows users to select properly-spelled words if they look incorrect. If it really is as easy as it appears to be, it can degrade (some) people’s natural reflex of correcting their spelling. Conversely, some may say the same about autocomplete or Google’s “Did you mean?” box in searches. Here’s the scoop about the Natural Language Processing:
    Natural Language Processing Google Wave

Official Site
Wave Developer Blog
Google Wave Federation Protocol
ProductUSP: Google Wave on Information Sharing
Google Wave: Tsunami or Wipe Out?

Related posts:

  1. Google Algorithm Changes 2009
  2. Twitter's new premium accounts? Fake!

Robin Bastien
Howdy! I'd the head of Ocular Harmony. I spend most of my time designing, reading beatnick literature, and pounding sound waves of experimental pulsation into my brain's frontal lobes. Contact me if you have any questions!

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  1. Tiph says:

    June 3, 2009

    Great post! While I, for one, think Google is pretty awesome, their quickly-expanding presence on the internet is a little intimidating.

    As for lazier typing… I’m not sure if that can get any worse with some people. >.<

    Tiph’s last blog important announcement.

  2. croftmill says:

    June 4, 2009

    Awesome stuff. Thanks very much for all the information.

  3. Chris says:

    June 5, 2009

    I agree with tiph, Google is a wonderful company but it is a little scary how they try and outdo anything and everything that doesn’t have their name on it.

  4. I know everything says:

    June 21, 2009

    Google have quite many projects and not all of them are on the top of the world, so do not worry to much about this one. I will add some diversity to our social internet - nothing else. facebook will not leave next day.