So Google Wave has been unleashed. Well, sorta. If you can wrangle in invite, that is.
I don't have an invite. But I have sat through the Google Wave full-length introductory video, as well as the truncated 10 minute You Tube version (thank you thank you thank you!) So I know a little bit, but not enough.
Everyone in the email industry is concerned that Google Wave represents the end of email. Given what I've seen so far - as of today - that's just not the case. The products are fundamentally different. From what I've seen, Google Wave is really just a souped up version of AIM (a great product that seems to be a bit of an afterthought for AOL) as opposed to a replacement for email. If social media studies are any indication, it may actually increase email usage.
Google Wave is essentially a real time collaboration tool. Problem is, people don't like to collaborate all that much. I mean, we do when we have to. Otherwise, group-type communications are normally avoided. When's the last time you woke up and went "Oh boy! I have a group meeting today! I'm really excited!" Having a tool that potentially increases the amount of time you can spend in collaboration can be either a good thing or a bad thing - if it helps increase communication by making sure you don't have to be in the same room with those people, it can be good. If it turns into a giant time suck with people dropping in left and right, it would be bad.
I'm also a little concerned about Google's approach to the Wave. The product looks a bit like an answer in search of a question. The fact that they've taken the open source route ("so you can help us finish the product") looks like they're not really sure what to do with it either. While hiding Gmail behind the "invite only" approach built some buzz (or maybe bought time until the product was better) all it really did was to slow down the adaptation of the product (full disclosure - I use Gmail. Eh.)
Gmail, in fact, is an excellent parallel. Everyone was quaking in their boots when Gmail first came out. It did a fantastic job of searching through email - what everyone thought was the Achilles heel of existing tools - but had (and still has) a clunky UI that forces you to learn a new paradigm for email (because everyone knows the brainiacs at Google are way smarter than you). You had to have an invitation. It was exclusive. But last time I checked my email delivery stats (at a company I once knew), gmail represented about 15% of our email names. Not shabby and - to be fair - a GOOD 15%, but not the dominant monster that Google Search represents. (Somewhere Trout and Ries are smiling at the Law of Line Extensions.)
Will Google Wave be the tsunami that wipes out email? Not any time soon. Google does work hard to prove itself correct, so they may have put some code out there that may be a threat at some point in the future. But right now it's the Google Ripple...The Gripple.