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A little bit of futurism for the day. Yesterday I was reading an article on a blog that I’ve forgotten saying that Google Wave is going to fail as an email alternative. I’m going to go out on a limb here and agree:

Google Wave is going to fail as an email alternative.

But I’m playing with words a bit here. You see, having used it for a while I’ve come to conclude that it probably was never meant to be an email alternative.

A couple months ago I got a Google Wave invite, and since then have been using it frequently. It’s an absolutely fantastic tool for saving notes, bookmarks, collaborating with friends, sending notes, you name it. The technology, for the most part, works great and it’s a joy to use.

So what’s wrong?

I don’t need a separate, disconnected web mail inbox, and looking at how often my contacts check their wave inbox, apparently neither do they. To date I’ve had one person send me a wave, one person respond to a wave, and one person read one of my waves (which happened after I sat down next to him and made him open his inbox). The problem with Google Wave is that no one wants to adopt a new messaging platform, especially one that can only be used by people who are already on it.

But that’s OK…

See, I don’t think that the purpose of Wave was ever to provide a next generation email platform. Notice that when it was first announced it was referred to as that, then its was collaboration platform, and this week people started talking about it as a development platform. It’s a series of those things.

Google already has an email platform (gmail). It also already has a collaboration platform (docs). So why would Google create a service competing for each of those roles? Google tends to use a different term. They refer to Wave as a “technology”.

In fact, a lot of the features aren’t that useful in the context of “email”. No one needs to see what other people are writing when they’re sending out a communication (in fact, some people are specifically asking for plugins that would remove that feature). No one needs their email to last forever (especially when they “delete” it). However, they do want real time collaboration in docs, and that same web app requires that docs persist, even when deleted. Public inboxes would be a great feature for Google Talk. Each technology seems, whether it’s functional in Wave, seems to integrate well through the Google service portfolio.

In November Engadget reported on an unverified source which claimed that the Wave interface was going to apply across different apps. If there is truth to this than it suggests a different kind of future for wave.

Sure the interface could work across different apps, but so could Wave itself. Let’s face it, with a little page formatting and doc reading/writing (and spreadsheets) you could use wave for docs. You can use it to chat with friends (in fact, that’s a feature thats built right in with “ping”). You could use it to give presentations (with a full screen mode, a “next wave” button, and folders).

I see Wave as a testing lab for the kind of unifying technology that Google has been hinting at for a while. It provides technologies that Google already uses, and lets Google test them across a large scale. Then, as each technology develops, we’ll start seeing them integrate into other Google apps. Or perhaps not integrate: replace.

Do I think Wave is going to fail as an email alternative? Absolutely, but as a technology it’s Google’s future.

And as I mentioned in the title, I have recently been bestowed with a plethora of Wave invites. More than I know what to do with! Leave a comment answering the “skill testing question” (perhaps that should read “wikipedia testing question”) below and I’ll send an invite to the email address you enter (don’t put it in the body of your post unless you want spammers to pick them up). I’m gonna give out six, and its first come first serve, so answer quickly!

The question: What is the name of the web app that Google Docs’s word processor is based on?