E-mail is like your normal post office mail. Send-wait-expect reply-get reply-start again. Only that the broking agent is electronic.
Instant messaging is like having a dots-and-dashes telegraphic conversation. Except that it happens over a digital network and in normal language.
Desktop sharing is watching your elder sister paint. Watch but don’t dare to touch.
Twitter is like sitting on the edge of an ocean. 140 character waves continue to hit the shores relentlessly. You sometimes walk and dip your feet in the water. Then you retreat and watch the tides again.
Facebook is like standing at the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street (Times Square, that is). You watch different people, you hear their conversations. Sometimes a friend passes by and you have a short conversation with them. Often you mutter something that a passing friend picks up and responds to. Or she goes and tells that to someone else.
Zoho and Google docs are collaborative tools. Like 5 people standing at a giant white board, all editing the same item synchronously.
These are all examples of human behavior. Rather that of the human desire of communication. From the dawns of civilization 13,000 years back we have been interacting with each other for multitude of reasons. Unfortunately while the needs and the reasons for communication were always around, society found productivity solutions to them mostly based on priority. Once a need became a pain, people rushed to solve it. The next need either got solved independently or in some rare cases smart people discovered ways of interconnecting metaphors and extended a solution to solve another need. And this is why we have the list – which incidentally is way incomplete – of multiple communication solutions above (and what they borrowed from).
The inevitable had to happen. Someone either had to come and aggregate as much of the behaviour as possible (Facebook does a decent job but it is like a patchwork, not fundamentally changing any of the collated paradigms) or someone had to create the Supermarket of Communications. Google Wave (please watch the embedded video. 80 mins but worth every second) does the second – and does it spectacularly.
The first temptation of an engineer looking to amalgamate multiple paradigms of communication is to integrate them in their native state – a straightforward nice wrapper over the pieces (put GTalk into GMail. On selecting a conversation, open up a widget that shows collaborative docs between participants, and so on). Google Waves not only successfully stayed away from this approach but they re-engineered every paradigm they touched. E-mail is not like e-mail in Google Waves and so isn’t instant messaging and link sharing and photo uploading and wikis and document collaboration. The interconnection of these elements in human nature renders them just as parts of a larger whole. And Google Wave engineers them exactly like that.
Google went a step further to make all this open source. A vast population of developers will now develop extensions to Google Wave using their APIs. It is like how your i-phone apps make your phone much better than how you bought it from the AT&T Store. I sincerely hope that Google pushes ahead with Waves and while it does also thinks of how to monetize this initiative. The reason why Google’s search technology has improved leaps and bounds is because it is heavily monetized, unlike say Docs or Blogger. A build-first-market-later is typical of an engineering led company and quite the opposite of what the gurus preach, but it will be nothing short of a debacle if Google slows the momentum down on Google Waves.