I did, however, look at the video of most of the one-hour-and-20-minute presentation Google gave to developers back in May (pour yourself a glass of wine tonight and take a peek at it here). It got me thinking about how Google Wave further flattens the distinctions between email and IMing, blogging and collaborating, while also expanding the definition of social media, and media itself. Whether this particular platform catches on isn't exactly the point. It's a significant step down a path that is becoming more heavily traveled every day.
Wherever Google Wave leads, it's a signpost of a trend we've been seeing for a long time -- which is that what used to be discrete lines between different forms of communication are now being erased. What a "Wave" essentially consists of is the combined, ongoing set of communications, including all of the documents and people involved, and the different media forms they contain, around a certain subject. It could be the editing of a press release, or a group recounting of a vacation, including photos. Argh. It's hard to explain.
Here's Google's description, which also doesn't quite depict Wave's scope: "A Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more."
What does become clear from the developer video, however, is that it's becoming accurate to think of everything, from spreadsheets to emails between two people, as media, since those activities can be collaborated upon and then shared, with the click of a button, much more easily in a public forum than many current tools give us. It also shows that most media forms are becoming social. In fact, in a new definition of the term "gang-bang," the demo showed a couple of people all communicating and collaborating on the same Wave at the exact same time.
AAAAAHHHHHH! Get me some Excedrin!
But in all seriousness, despite the potential that Google Wave will unleash "collaborative" fights-to-the-death among overcaffeinated editors, there's some really cool stuff here. For the purposes of this column, I'll concentrate on some of the ones that fall most closely into the category of what we call social media:
Google Wave can also transform an email discussion into IMing if both users are online, and invite others into the discussion. It can transmit typing in real-time (in other words, no more of those "Cathy is typing..." messages); there's even a playback function which allows people to see how the Wave developed.
It's as though the development team examined dozens of barriers that separate communications forms and then went about the work of figuring out how they could be taken down. As a result, they've built the most social platform ever constructed.
As I said earlier, it's impossible to know whether Google Wave will catch on. Sometimes I sense, even among the most geeky among us, some platform-fatigue-- there's just too many platforms to track, let alone use. However, it is important in a directional sense. Google Wave and/or its descendants will be our social media future. Hell, probably our media future.