Archive for the 'wave' Category

Why Google Wave Matters

Lots of discussion around the web about Google Wave.  One common meme floating around dismisses it as an Outlook clone.

I think it’s a mistake to focus on the ‘features’ and the ‘user interfaces’ Google demonstrated.  They are of course necessary to illustrate how this new architecture can be used.  But these interfaces will evolve and morph over time.

Wave matters  because it shifts  communication and collaboration from a document transmission paradigm to a shared document editing paradigm where all documents exist in a shared repository potentially accessible by anyone.  This makes it much easier to ‘mix and match’ different kinds of communication and collaboration — which will likely lead to entirely new forms of interaction over time.

The Traditional Document Transmission Paradigm

Traditional paradigms are all based on the idea of a document being transmitted from one or more authors to one or more readers.  An email, is a very directed communication.  The document may be ‘passed around’ and forwarded to others who might add to the content.  An IM is typically quite a short document.  A tweet is by definition a short document, but one that is shared with many people.  A blog is a longer document – again shared publicly with many people.  Comments on emails, IM’s or blogs are all (typically) document based – your comment is appended to the document.

Likewise, collaborative editing is also document based.  Multiple people can edit the document – it can be sent around to different participants for comments – but (at least in the Microsoft paradigm) the document itself is passed around and edited and is the repository of the collected activity.  People tend to edit the document sequentially appending their edits to it.  The document itself is physically ‘passed around’ – either by email or checking it out of some shared repository.

The New Wave Paradigm

In the Wave paradigm every communication takes the form of a shared document in the cloud.  Communication is accomplished through shared editing of the document and real-time transmission of the changes to a group of readers or participants.  Every document is potentially accessible to anyone and everyone – you extend or contract the circle of people involved by explicitly controlling who has access to the document and what their rights are.

This paradigm easily accommodates all the traditional forms of communication and collaboration.  An email is a shared document with a restricted audience.  An IM is also a shared document with a restricted audience – just shorter.  A blog or tweet is a shared document with a public audience.  Social network type communications are shared documents with defined groups as audiences.  Changes in documents are transmitted to readers or listeners in real-time.  And of course, in the case of collaborative documents anyone given access and authority can participate in the construction of the document.  At any point in time.  There is no need to ‘pass the document’ around for editing.

So What?

If all Wave did was replace existing paradigms – it might not be that interesting.  This explains why some people are  shrugging their shoulders.  To them, it just looks too much like existing applications.  A ‘cloud based’ re-engineering effort.

It realizes it’s true power when you start to utilize the new paradigm to ‘cross boundaries’.  Let me try to illustrate this with an imagined example:

When I read a blog post or tweet there are many different things I might want to do with it.  For example, let’s say it’s something a competitor is doing.  I might want to forward it to colleagues and have a private conversation about it.  I might want to make a comment for public consumption.  I might want to blog or comment on some or all of it for public consumption by people who are following me in some way.  In some cases, I might want to do all three.

I can do all of this today.  But it’s ackward and this ackwardness places barriers that impede the flow of communication.  It causes me to ‘not bother’ with certain kinds of communication because they take too much effort.

In a Wave world I can participate in the conversation on the existing wave (the equivalent of commenting on the blog), create a derivative wave for public consumption (the equivalent of blogging or tweeting it) and create a private conversation with a limited audience (my colleagues say) discussing the original ‘blog post’.  There can of course be both private and public conversations about my derviative public conversation as well.

The comments on the original blog post can also take the form of ‘long and thoughtful commentary’ or an interactive dialog where people are commenting and getting updates in real-time.  You don’t need to have a ‘real-time’ tool for discussing the blog contents in real-time.  You just have the real-time conversation on the blog itself.

So, I use the same tool to manage all these communication streams – my public communication, my public comments on the publications of others and various forms of private communication.  I can seamlessly move between the different paradigms.  The flow of private and public communication is unimpeded.

This reduction in ‘communication friction’ will change how we communicate.  In five years time we’ll look back and marvel at how primitive the ‘document transmission’ paradigm seems.   Communication and collaboration by editing documents ‘in the cloud’ will seem perfectly normal.


Microsoft and Google Declare War

On Thursday, May 28, 2009 Microsoft and Google officially declared war.

Microsoft announced Bing their new search initiative competing directly with Google’s core business.

Google announced Wave: a new product, platform and protocol that re-imagine communication and collaboration in the cloud.  It has grand ambitions that includes a direct assault on Microsoft’s core business of office communication and collaboration.

Initial reviews of Bing by industry insiders suggest it is competitive with Google’s search and offers some interesting features.  Most also believe these features and function won’t be sufficient by themselves to overcome people’s entrenched familiarity with Google.  Microsoft has anticipated this challenge by also announcing a massive advertising campaign to get people to try their new offering.

Microsoft is betting that search has matured, even becoming something of a commodity.  As such, by offering a comparable product they are able to shift the battle-field to a marketing and branding effort.  This MO is consistent with Microsoft history.  They have never been a first mover or an innovator.  They are an exploiter – a very determined one with deep pockets and patience.  And arguably, Bing is their ‘3rd generation’ of search engine (MSN and Live being the prior 2) — and it took them three tries to ‘get it right’ with Windows.  It will be interesting to see if they can finally grow their market share in search.

Google is not standing still on search – they continue to announce new search offerings at a heady pace.  It’s clear they intend to seriously defend their core business of search.  This highly profitable business is what allows them to make all their other big bets.

And Wave feels like a big bet.  It redefines how people communicate and collaborate.  This directly challenge’s Microsofts traditional paradigm of a ‘computer on every desktop’ in which that desktop computer is the primary repository of one’s information.  In Google’s cloud based future the desktop computer becomes irrelevant.  It people shift to the cloud, it represents a huge threat to Microsoft’s ability to license software stacks running on each of those computers.

Google has made many previous guerrilla attacks with products like Gmail and Google Docs.  But these are really just cloud based implementations of traditional paradigms.  Wave on the other hand is a full frontal assault because it encompasses not only these traditional means of communication and collaboration but also extends to include blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter) and activities currently associated with social networks.

It’s unusual for Google to announce such a grand product in such a relatively immature state.  The timing seems chosen to steal some of Microsoft’s Bing noise.  But it is a grand enough vision that Google will need help from legions of developers to make it happen   It is those legions who are the foot-soldiers in this battle – and they are mercenaries who will go where they see the biggest opportunity.

This battle is going to be played out over many years.  But we’ll likely look back and see these two announcements as a significant milestone in the struggle.

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