Google Wave: The end of the Wild Web

There will be many – many – blog posts written on Google Wave, and there already have been so many created, that I’m sure this one will be lost in the void, but for whomever keeps ‘The Record,’ add me to it saying: “Google Wave will revolutionize communication.”

I’m throughly shocked by the number of naysayers out there. The reaction on Twitter after the announcement, and the excellent review of the event on TechCruch, was mixed. Some were just as enthusiastic as me, but many have the wait-and-see attitude that, to me, doesn’t recognize the pure awesomeness that is Google Wave. There are only two obstacles Google Wave has to overcome to become as widely used as Google Search that I can see: market penetration and standards adoption.

HTML5

The switch to Wave is going to rely on HTML5, a standard that has been 5 years in the making. That’s a really long time coming. The same year the standard got it’s start gave birth to Facebook, Gmail was still new, and IE was still 91% of the browser market. In Internet terms, HTML5 has been in progress since the middle ages.

Changing the basic language of the web is a drastic change, and we need to be sure that the standard is right. Yet, surely we can adapt to adding new standards at a quicker rate? Because all “modern” browsers are open-source, and have a track record for continuous innovation, it’s inconceivable to me that was couldn’t innovate on a faster scale.

Five years is an awful long time, and it’s incredible how much – of the draft spec – the browsers are already supporting. HTML5 will bring about a friendlier internet – one that feels like a desktop experience. We have the technology to deliver that – why wouldn’t we?

Acceptance

To my mind, the harder part of making Wave successful is getting people to use it. I don’t just mean sign up. I mean, use it.

The pure genius of Wave is that it centralizes all communication.

Everything.

All of it.

That means your email (gone for sure), your IM (no doubt), your sticky notes (why not?), your documents (probably), your faxes (people still use that protocol!?), your text messages (not demoed, but why not!?), your blog posts (wordpress plugin anyone?), your blog comments (Hallelujah!), your twitter (likely) …your everything.

If you’re going to really use Wave, that means throwing out all of your old tools. Get rid of your email client, forget AIM, loose the SMS plan. They’re not needed.

As long as people can write some extensions for backward compatibility to those folks still stuck in the HTML4, pre-2009 era, there won’t be a reason to keep the old communications around.

One Source

Having one place for all of your communication is such a simplification of life that we ought to all go buy Google a beer – scratch that – a nice bottle of wine. You’ll have the time to drink it with all the … time … Google just saved you.

And that’s just the first thing Wave will do for you – save you time. It’s going to be easier than ever to communicate with folks. With the email paradigm broken and quicker, simpler, communication the norm, we’ll spend time in the inbox – it just won’t be as painful.

The End of the Cowboys

The other thing I see Wave doing is moving us toward a community driven internet. One of the biggest problems that the web has always had is trust. The Web is still very much like the old Wild West.

The Wild West was an era that determined how the western US would be settled. The Western frontier times ended once cities started to become established; commerce settled down, and laws could be written and enforced.

The establishment of cities is a good metaphor for building online communities. But, there is one key factor that most online communities lack that new towns always had: trust. Small towns are a place where everyone knows everyone. Small cities are just many of these communities put together – there’s an intricate network of relationships. All of which are built on the idea that people know and trust each other.

When people don’t have a personal relationship with a part of their community, they have a trust in certain community institutions. Grocery Stores, for example, are a real marvel of commerce – not because of their business model (which is pretty good), but because they’ve standardized the way people buy food and guarantee a good supply. We’re not worried about food at all in our society – we trust that grocery stores will always be around to provide what we need.

On the Wild Web, we’re still learning the ropes. Institutions are still being built, and we’re still trying to figure out how to build relationships with literally everyone in the world.

Buying a product online can still be risky proposition. Everything from credit card theft to non-reputable dealers (far more common) puts you at risk. Engaging in Internet communities is a leap of faith too. Who really is stargirl73 answering your tax question on that forum? And what jack-ass is flaming you on your own blog?

The solution here? Create an institution that standardizes identities. If everyone uses one tool for communication, then it becomes easy for them to build a reputation. Wave will make it simple to build a profile of who you are. Others can you can get a sense of everything you’ve said and what you think. That’s just like building a reputation for yourself in the ‘real world.’

In real life, you don’t get to create a new identity at every store you walk into, every party you go to, every employer you interview with. You are who you are, and your reputation goes with you. Wave will help bring that concept to the web, hopefully, building trust that will allow us to have real community online.

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Google Wave: The end of the Wild Web

Joey Baker

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I write code most days. Prevously: photojournalist, EMT. Somewhat obsessed with jouralism.