Sunday, 22 November 2009

Google Wave - Will it just be a big splash?

Swami Nikhilaananda said :
"It is always wise to test the waters before you surf the wave"

Google is supposed to be one of the most innovative companies, a company that has decided to challenge reigning champion Microsoft head on, a company that plans to make the entire world to shrink even more using the internet. The internet definitely holds great promise - But will it truly completely eliminate all fat clients? Not in the next few years I can bet... In fact, I don't think that the internet will replace local software ever (unless something totally radical happens) and this is the reason why I don't think Google Chrome will rout Microsoft Windows... If anyone has a chance of dethroning Microsoft, it has to be either Linux or Apple Mac OSX. But definitely not Chrome.

Google's wave is the newest of their products that have been creating a lot of buzz for quite some time now. It was a product that made a lot of people to sit and wonder when the question "How would the email be if it was invented today" was asked. Emails have come a long way, and that blended with chat is a fantastic way of communicating. And Google definitely deserves credit for merging the two into a browser, and giving us unlimited space first. (Yahoo and Microsoft only followed their lead) However, all was well till then. And then *SPLASH* came wave...

I was longing for a wave invite for a long time. Iwas constantly watching different videos and reading opinions. But I slowly realised that wave is not a lot different from what email or chat is... In a way, I like the existing technology a lot better than this new thing. Don't call me biased, and don't say that I did not give it a try. Wave definitely has several great features. Here are the things that I found which were not to my liking... [Many limitations may be due to its being a preview or maybe they are not yet activated - I may have made some mistakes here and there, do let me know if you find any, so that I can correct myself amd update my knowledge and this post]

Firstly, I was unable to send myself a mail from some other account (Gmail account and Yahoo account). Which means, if I use wave right now, I cannot receive any mails. Only other people who are in wave appear in my contacts. And it also subsequently told me that I cannot communicate with a person who is not on Wave. This may be a temporary issue. But basically, it is one which prevents me from completely migrating to wave. I cannot communicate with a non wave user as of now.

Wave is supposed to be real time. The video posted by Google which shows the creators of wave talking in real time was very interesting. However, this didn't run well on our systems - perhaps the internet connection was slow? I don't know - we actually have significantly fast internet connection for chat and browsing, but apparently not fast enough for wave to show it in real time. I don't know if this is an issue with wave or my internet connection...

Next, a wave is supposed to be like a small mail or an IM. Now, people can reply to waves. They have showed in the video that the advantage of a wave is that edits can be made anywhere in the wave by whoever is in the wave. I didn't like this feature because after some time, we start losing track of who is doing what and where... You may say - go for the time line feature... But I think that would defeat the purpose of real time if I kept scrolling back and forth in time. In conventional chat, all messages were coming at the very end of the chat window which makes it convenient for us to see and keep track at only one point. With wave, things are growing all over the place... Mind you, I am talking about just one wave with minimum two people. Imagine how it will be when you have some four people chatting with you in multiple waves, with content growing in the middle and at the end and all over... You have to keep going up and down, left and right...

The above feature is only useful if we are having a collaborative discussion, which is not very much in real time. Now let us say I write some points, with questions. My friend can come, write answers, and perhaps make some corrections a little later... and then someone else can do something a little later. So, when I come back to this wave a lot later, I will be able to see all the changes made, and now I can use the timeline feature to see how the wave developed.

Another feature I didn't like was that older waves when updated, didn't come to the top. So, you can't expect me to go up and down to see if some really old wave got updated (is this a bug or a feature?)

And wave doesn't work in IE unless I install Chrome Frame :O How can you design something that doesn't work in the most used browser in the world? (Oh Firefox fans, IE still dominates in terms of number of users - I am not saying IE is better, but IE numbers are higher) Somehow, I am sceptical of using Chrome Frame (is this a ploy to get Chrome numbers higher?) and so I tried it out on Firefox.

While conventional IMs go across when I type a message and press Enter, wave insists on typing Shift + Enter... If this is not the IM equivalent and instead is the mail equivalent, someone please enlighten me about it. Ctrl + Enter on the other hand, creates a sub reply...

Wave may become the next big thing after Google fixes their issues. After all, it is still a baby and is just out... But apart from some ordinary annoyances like being able to communicate with wave users only (which is definitely a temporary problem), other issues like being able to make changes all over the place, etc. are all design features which will not go away. These are definitely things which would prove to be deterrants, at least for ordinary users like myself. But with the current set of features (which I saw in Google's video and used some myself) I am not very impressed and feel that wave will take a lot more time to wash away current technology. Right now, it is only a splash...

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