Riding the wave – the google wave
Since last week’s announcement, the web has been abuzz with discussions and reactions to what is quite possibly Google’s boldest project in years: Google Wave. It appears a Wave is a live communications object that 2 or more people can participate and interact with at any time. It’s a bit like a blend of an email, IM, wiki and social networking tool all rolled into one. The big news however, is the proposed open source nature of the protocol that powers the wave. This effectively allows any service provider to build wave servers and wave clients, much as they can with email servers and clients. The success and ubiquitous nature of email is largely due to its open standard protocol, and Google’s move to position Wave as an open standard, both client and server side, dramatically increases the likelihood of mass adoption. It is for this reason that there has been much commentary heralding the beginning of the end of email’s reign as the king application of the internet. While we heard similar arguments with RSS, Facebook and twitter, it does seem plausible that Google’s new, open protocol for direct and group messaging could chip away at email’s dominance over the next decade or so. My first reaction to seeing the demo was “Wow, businesses are going to love this, how much more efficient is this going to make multi-participant email conversations”. My second reaction was “Perhaps this is a little too complicated. Email is simple and straight forward, yet how many corporate dramas are created by the accidental or misuse of the ‘reply all’ button. How will the workplace cope with such a dangerously flexible and complicated communication tool?” My third reaction was “This platform is going to enable marketers to engage with customers in some seriously cool ways. With the ability to build extensions and gadgets, and the communication being a live object, this is going to radically change the electronic direct marketing game.” My gut feeling at the moment, is that marketers need to watch the wave very carefully this year, as adoption is likely to be rapid, opening up a new line of communication with the consumer. In the short term, it is likely to be yet another channel we need to manage. In the medium term, with developers building gateways between wave and platforms like email, twitter and facebook, Google Wave could become a central aggregator to our currently fragmented online communications. In the long term, it could even knock email off its block. However with many people sporting a multi-decade email habit, I don’t see this happening anytime soon. One thing’s for sure, at Enso we’ll be keeping a very close eye on Google Wave and its implications for changing the game of email marketing as we know it.