Google Wave: OpenDoc Redux

by on May 30, 2009

I’m watching the keynote from Google I/O the other day and it’s impressive stuff, technically at least. I can count on the fingers of one hand the occasions I’ve wanted (or needed) to collaborate on the same document in real-time with anyone, but I shall curb my natural cynicism. The mere fact that they are releasing a large part of Wave as “open source” (no mention of actual licence as yet I don’t think)  makes it all an order of magnitude more exciting than if (for example) Microsoft or IBM were presenting these ideas.

There is a lot to take in here, but some initial thoughts from my notes:

General thoughts

  • The overall concept often seems very similar to that of OpenDoc, back from 1992, and in the days when Microsoft was happy to work with Apple (how times have changed now!)
  • No Gears (apart from enabling drag/drop from external apps)? I’m surprised – I was expecting Gears to be a large part of this. So whither Gears?
  • HTML 5? I wasn’t expecting this to be so… impressive!
  • I don’t think collaborative editing equals higher productivity. I think it means distracted and (at least at first) chaotic production, until, perhaps culture changes accordingly (hold that thought though – it can be applied to many of these observations).
  • If this takes off, we are (for better or worse) seeing the future form of a number of UI design patterns that may well stay with us for the next 50 or more years, if WIMP is any thing go by.
  • Wave is made by the Google Maps team, not the Gmail team. I get the impression they’re more interested in form over content, but again, be still my natural cynicism.

Some specifics

00:10:38 – Ah, “full duplex” typing. No. Anyone (and there are not very many) who has used UNIX ntalk will know that this is awful. Not an option you are going to have on for very long. Distracting, overly revealing – it feels unnecessary and a silly bit of tecchie bravado (they point out it’s all very difficult to actually implement).

00:13:00 – Centralised threads are very useful and conquor one of the most limiting factors of email (history check: this, along with the ability to unsend messages, was something I missed most when I had to stop using FirstClass). Permissions are going to be tricky though.

00:21:00 –  Embedding Waves. Hmm. OK. Not sure.

00:31:42 – Playback. I love this – I really do, but permissions are going to make this tricky.

00:43:12 – Again, collaboration distractions. What, really, is the benefit of such tightly-integrated collaboration?

00:44:02 – Lending the power of Google to spell checking. This really is wonderful.

00:44:30 and beyond. I started blogging.

Update

Looks like I’m not the only cynical one.

Comments

Based on HTML5 eh… Another kick in the nuts for standards.

So they’re building in a draft standard which is only significantly implemented in WebKit, which is the core rendering engine of Chrome, Google’s browser. When I say implemented, I mean that the WebKit team are implementing what they want and attempting to force the standard to fall in line.

So they’re building on a nonexistent standard which works only in their proprietary browser. Does anyone else sniff a monopoly?

Shhh Jon, dont burst my argument :) Safari also uses WebKit, so the rendering engine is the same.

All I’m really saying is they are inventing and implementing things and then post-hoc forcing them into the HTML5 standard in order to create competitive advantage for themselves. They’re not the only ones doing it, but Google have a natural (monopolistic) advantage in that they deliver both applications and the platform they run on.

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