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October 15, 2009

What is Google Wave?

Writing about web page

I’ve seen lots of opinions about Google Wave. “Google wave will replace email.” “Google Wave will replace instant messaging.” “Google Wave is the new Twitter.” In my opinion, none of those is true. Wave is something different from all of them.

First, though, what does Google say Wave is:

Google Wave is an online communication and collaboration tool that makes real-time interactions more seamless—in one place, you can communicate and collaborate using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

Also Lars Rasmussen, one of Wave’s inventors, has said “Wave is what email would look like if it were invented today.”

I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the preview system in the first round on September 30th, so I’ve now had a couple of weeks to play with it. I know quite a few other people with accounts and so have been able to experiment with most of the features of it now. For me, the main differentiator is the real-time nature of it. Without that, a wave is little more than a wiki page that only a few people can see and edit. Or a whole thread of emails visible at once. That’s not so revolutionary, really.

So, the key is the real-time nature of it. How important is that, really? I see it as possibly useful in some restricted scenarios, specifically where a smallish group of people are collaborating on a single thing and will all be online at once. When you can’t guarantee that everyone, or a significant proportion of them, will be online together, then the real-time features are wasted and you are back to a wiki/email hybrid. And even if you can, how important is that, really? I’m not sure I see the point. I haven’t come up with an example yet that couldn’t be done just was well with a combination of existing tools. Maybe the that’s the point? Using a single tool instead of several? Or maybe I just don’t have enough imagination? That’s almost certainly true…! I know there are lots of clever, imaginative people out there playing with Wave and trying to find uses. Perhaps the killer app is out there, but we just haven’t found it yet?

There’s lots of good technology underlying wave. Making it all hang together in real-time, and all browser based, is clever stuff. The Wave developers have done an impressive job. But the hype at the moment seems to be focussed on that, and we need to look beyond the technology to the uses of it. The extension architecture provides lots of interesting possibilities, and again some very clever people are working on extensions to do interesting things. We just need to wait and see what they come up with. Maybe the technology itself really is the interesting part of Wave, and it will end up being used to support something else that is useful, and Wave itself is just the first demonstrator app and will eventually fade away?

Whatever Wave is, and whatever is turns into, I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to displace email, IM, Twitter or anything else anytime soon. And we need a lot more people with access to it before we’ll see how useful it is in its current incarnation. Keep those invites flowing, Google…!

(And before you ask, no I have no invites to give out – my eight invites disappeared on day one and I’ve been given no more. Sorry.)

June 23, 2008

An embeddable Google Earth

A couple of weeks ago, Google released the Google Earth Plugin allowing you to embed a Google Earth view in a web page. There’s an API you need to use to drive it, so it isn’t as straightforward to use as Google Maps, but there are a few sites around that wrap up the functionality and simplify things a lot.

Then Firefox 3 came along and broke the plugin, but a new FF3-compatible version was released over the weekend, so i thought I’d finally blog it. It doesn’t give you all the functionality of the native Google Earth application – no layers, favourites, etc. but the navigation tools are all there. It looks like this (obviously you need to go and install the plugin before you’ll see this!):

Powered by Google Earth Hacks | Map Details | Create your own!

This was created by the ShareIt! service, which basically lets you browser to a place and save it, and then provides a chunk of HTML to paste into a web page or blog to embed the Google Earth viewer. Nice and easy.

How does this compare to the Google Maps equivalent?

View Larger Map

I don’t think there’s a lot to choose between them, to be honest, and in many ways the Maps version is better. The navigation tools in the Earth version are better, but that’s about it, and you do need yet another plugin. Perhaps the advantages will be clearer when more services appear that make use of it?

April 16, 2008

Local Google imagery updated again

While browsing around this morning I noticed that the satellite imagery for this area, in both Google Earth and Google Maps, has been updated since last time I noticed. Can anybody spot any clues in the current images about when they might have been taken?

View Larger Map

April 05, 2007

Google Maps

Writing about web page

Google have just announced a “My Maps” which is something I’ve been looking for for a long time now. Basically, it lets you draw lines & polygons on maps, add placemarks, text, photos, etc. and save the results within Google Maps where you can publish them for all to see.

The particular reason I’ve been wanting to do this is to publish my cycle routes as active maps, rather than photoshopped images. This, for example, is one of my regular lunchtime cycle routes, to Meriden and Back. Or it could be embedded in a blog entry using an iframe, like this:

I can’t find a way to make the left-hand pane automatically hide itself – it would look much neater that way. If anybody knows how, please let me know!!

April 02, 2007

Another Gmail enhancement

Writing about web page

Gmail just keeps getting better and better. I’ve been waiting for this for ages. Being able to archive my gmail messages outside of gmail makes me feel much more comfortable about using it as my primary message store.

April 01, 2007

Free wireless broadband from Google

Writing about web page

It was only a matter of time…

June 02, 2005

Getting directions from Google

Just found this clever little form lying around on somebody's web page. If you want to get directions to the University from somewhere (in the UK, I guess) just type in the postcode and hit "Go".

October 11, 2004

More about Gmail

Writing about web page

The Linux version of this has been around for a while, but finally somebody has produced it for Windows. The GMail file system (GMailFS). A 1GB network drive, as easy to use as any other drive. It looks like this:

Perhaps I'll have to sign up for a few more accounts for myself – I'm sure 1GB isn't going to last very long!

Anybody want any of my spare invites before I use them all up:-)

August 31, 2004

More gmail

Follow-up to Gmail from Steve's blog

Google are obviously trying to enroll a lot more users – I've just got some more invites to give out. So, if you didn't respond quickly enough last time, now's your chance. Once again, first come first served…

August 26, 2004


Writing about web page

I've been playing with Gmail for a little while, and actually I quite like it. I've never before taken to web-based email systems, but I can see me sticking with this.

Anyway, I've been given the opportunity to invite a few friends. If there's anybody out there that hasn't got a gmail account already and wants to give it a go, the address to send the bottles to is…

But seriously, drop me an email and I'll send you an invite. First come first served – I only have three to give away, so be quick!

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