As we previously reported, starting tomorrow Google will widen access to its innovative communications platform Wave, offering 100,000 new invitations to use the service. Many of these people in turn will be allowed to invite others to join as well, reminiscent of how GMail propagated. (It’s wise for Google to allow these new users to invite friends and family because you effectively can’t use Wave without contacts on the system.) Those who will gain full access tomorrow will apparently be developers, early users who provided feedback and some Google Apps customers.
My earlier blog post provided some initial “hands on” reactions to the service. It’s a powerful and flexible tool that defies easy categorization. As I said earlier this month:
[Wave] looks a lot like an email client. But Wave permits multiple people to interact in real-time with each other. It’s a mix of email and IM with some Twitter and iGoogle thrown in. Speaking of the latter, Wave will spawn a developer ecosystem and permits existing Google Gadgets and the new social gadgets to work within it. In other words, developers can build apps and users can access or import them within the platform and individual waves (conversations).
There’s also drag and drop photo sharing. One cool related feature allows full-screen slideshows of images added by any user participating in a wave. (Yahoo has been taking incremental steps toward something more like this with its series of Yahoo Mail upgrades.)
Wave can also act as a Twitter client or embed Twitter clients (and one would assume eventually Facebook too). One could also imagine it as a feed reader for news. Indeed, third party developer efforts will enable Wave to grow and change, built around basic functionality of real-time communication and collaboration. One could easily imagine Google Voice and Google Talk integration into Wave, and so on.
Accordingly Wave has huge potential, but people will definitely need to use and experiment with it before they understand and see its benefits. There’s a clear learning curve and some complexity surrounding the product; it’s not entirely intuitive. Wave probably also needs to incorporate email in order to go mainstream.
Google still considers Wave to be in “preview” as it works out kinks and bugs of one sort or another. As it releases Wave more broadly Google will gain considerable feedback, which should help it add features and refinements. Here’s the video demo of Google Wave in action from the I/O Developer event in May.
Google has more in its blog post this morning.
Postscript: There’s an already emerging developer ecosystem around Wave. These “extensions” (widgets, plug-ins) will make Wave’s value and use cases more obvious to new users and will speed adoption. For example, see the Ribbit extension for conference calls or 6 Rounds for video chat.