Google Wave could be new face of collaborative work

By Jenna DeWitt: CNJstaff writer

By Jenna DeWitt

CNJ staff writer

As a college student, I am a proud member of Generation Instant. Instant coffee, macaroni, banking, shopping, music and news. These things are all very important to us 20-somethings, born around the same time as the home computer.

However, nothing is as important to us as instant communication. Standing in line at the post office simply to mail a letter is about as foreign to us as waiting weeks to pick up developed film from a point-and-shoot camera.

Therefore, we are long-time veterans of the instant message.

Whether it takes the form of a text from a cell phone, a Twitter Tweet or a Facebook wall post, we are shocked if it takes longer than five seconds. Preferably, communication happens in “real-time” in chat rooms or through a messenger program like AIM, MSN or the chat features that come with other social media sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Somehow, this chain of instant events turned into years, we grew up into young professionals and decided we needed to work this way too.

Keeping that need in mind, Google has reinvented e-mail, this time with a chatroom twist. They call it a Wave.

Users can chat, for business or pleasure, in real-time using plain text, documents and videos or thousands of “gadgets” including games, maps, drawings and polls.

Conversations, known as Waves, are automatically saved into an inbox, but can be organized into folders by the user.

In addition to gadgets, users can Wave robots. One such bot, “aunt-rosie”, can translate text into 52 languages, powered by Google Translate.

Unlike other popular instant messengers, Waves can include multiple participants. Users can also edit, highlight and change the font or color of any text in the Wave, including another user’s.

When a user is finished writing or editing a text or gadget, users click the “done” button.

However, Google has upgraded “instant” by allowing everyone in a Wave to see text as it is being typed, not just if someone is typing as previous messengers have done.

Google Wave’s preview version made its debut this fall with 100,000 web developers — and new users brought in via invite — given the ability to invite eight friends apiece.

Invites can be requested on www.googlewave.com however that is where the instantaneous features end, as invites can take hours, even days, to process.

As the Wave developers themselves put it, “We have a lot of stamps to lick.”