a life of coding

Monday, August 10, 2009

Google Wave isn't Email, it's Facebook (and Twitter, and AIM)

Google Wave is an upcoming product form Google, and has been described as a replacement for email. In the demo at Google I/O, real-time interaction was pervasive. Data in the format of emails, instant messages, tweets, and individual chat keystrokes were shared between multiple people at the same time. Participants were added in very granular ways - a whole chat, a paragraph of an email, an ongoing conversation starting from a specific point. Everyone proclaimed that Google Wave was The New Emailâ„¢, and would be used as such.

Possibly, but Wave is far more powerful than that. At the heart of Wave is Jabber (XMPP), a technology that few people know the importance of. Some people might recognize it as the transport for Google Chat, but the real killer application of Jabber has been secure, real-time, in-house chat at financial and government organizations. Jabber is an efficient way for people to selectively share information with lots of people without needing a central server owned by an untrusted company.

Jabber has not been a breakout success, likely because it cannot be used via a web browser, and instant messaging has a strong network effect. Google Wave exposes Jabber to web browsers via a custom Jabber server, AJAX, and the Google Web Toolkit. To combat the network effect, Google integrated their email service and then showed how two people using Wave would have an improved email experience. This embrace and extend approach will probably be the primary growth mechanism for Wave as a technology, and Google as featured API's for embedding Wave into existing web pages, and providing external services to Wave users.

With a web browser interface, a Jabber back-end, and well documented extension API's, Wave is extremely useful. Write a robot for Twitter (which Google has already demonstrated as Twave), Flickr, and Blogger (also demonstrated by Google), and you recreate the core features of social media sites like Facebook. In fact, all that you would need to finish your proto-Facebook is some access permissions on the data (already part of Wave) and a mechanism for managing who has access to which data. Any data stored out on the external services (Twitter, Flickr, etc) will have their own permissions schemes, but data stored in Wave will be visible to people that you choose, just like Facebook.

Your friends might not even have an account on the same Wave server, but due to Jabber federation, thats okay. One convenient reason for telling people that Wave is like email, is that people will add their server name when giving out their account, just like an email address: ynniv@ynniv.com, or ynniv@mac.com. GMail users are used to giving out their email address for all sorts of things: email, instant messaging, voice and video chat, document collaboration.

If Wave turns out to be as important as I hope, people will stop differentiating their social networking account from their email account, and help break up the centralized control of personal information in the process. Back before the bubble, we thought that the Internet was going to be a decentralizing, democratizing force. Everyone on the Internet could send or receive data from anyone else. Email, and the web were products of this vision. Social networking and instant messaging has taken that away from us, placing all the control and everyone's private data in just a few hands. Jabber was created with that original decentralized vision, but never overcame the strong network effect in the instant messaging world. Google Wave could be the sugar to help the medicine down, finally bringing decentralization to the social web.


  • I know this is going to sound very Leo Laporte-ish, but I think it's great that wave uses XMPP. Maybe it won't have the structural problems facing Twitter.

    By Blogger CapnSwirv, At 8/10/09 6:36 PM  

  • I would argue that Wave is unlike both of those. At least on the backend, it seems that Wave is fundamentally an enfilade structure (like xu88 or udanax green).

    I suppose some people at Google actually *did* listen when Ted Nelson gave that talk there a few years back.

    By Blogger Unknown User, At 8/10/09 11:02 PM  

  • REVIEW: Google Wave Doesn't Make Much of a Wave--Yet


    Similar concepts like google wave colayer :
    colayer uses simple basic html,http,xml , ajah


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 8/11/09 8:56 AM  

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