Catching the Google Wave

I recently received an invitation to join Google Wave. I was very excited about it. After a short time of playing around, I was given a limited number of invitations to hand out so that my friends and peers could join in. It was then that I realized how few people actually know about Google Wave.

So what is it?

Google Wave is a "personal communication and collaboration tool." It is a Web-based service, designed to merge e-mail, instant messaging, wikis and social networking.

Basically, Google Wave works like e-mail, but instead of sending a message along with its entire thread of previous messages, or requiring all responses to be stored in each user's inbox, message documents that contain complete threads of messages are perpetually stored on a central server. Like a Web page!

The entire document is called a "wave," and each wave is shared with collaborators who can be added to or removed from the wave at any point during a wave's existence. Any participant of a wave can reply anywhere within the message, edit any part of the wave and add participants at any point in the process. Each edit/reply is a "blip," and users can reply to individual blips within waves or add blips at the end. Recipients are notified of changes/replies in all waves in which they are active.

The history of each wave is stored within it. Collaborators may use a playback feature in Google Wave to observe the order in which a wave was edited, blips that were added, and who was responsible for what in the wave. The history may also be searched by a user to view and/or modify specific changes, such as specific kinds of changes or messages from a single user.

In addition, waves are live. All blips are visible in real-time, letter by letter, as they are typed by the other collaborators. Multiple participants may edit a single wave simultaneously in Google Wave. Thus, waves can function not only as e-mails and threaded conversations but also as an instant messaging service when many participants are online at the same time. A wave may repeatedly shift roles between e-mail and instant messaging, depending on the number of users editing it concurrently. The ability to show messages as they are typed can be disabled, similar to conventional instant messaging.

And, of course, Google Wave is supported by extensions that can provide, for example, spelling/grammar checking, automated traslation among 40 languages, a game of chess, and many others.

To learn more, visit Or watch this video!

Interested in a Wave invite? I have some, and I'd be willing to share! Shoot me an e-mail!

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian