At 2009′s Google I|O developer conference, the big news was the debut of the company’s uberambitious Wave workgroup service. And it was big news: I got all giddy and called it the new epicenter of the Google-Microsoft wars; my friend Jordan Golson, on the other hand, thought it was breathtakingly arrogant.
And then not a lot happened. The service stayed in private beta. It was a hot ticket for awhile, but a running gag quickly developed: “Hey, I got into Google Wave–now what?” References to chirping crickets were common. After a while, people stopped talking about Wave much, period. The world moved on to other subjects–like the vaguely Wavelike Google Buzz.
Almost a year later, I|O 2010 is kicking off today. And one of Google’s announcements is that it’s finally letting everyone into Wave as part of its experimental Google Labs offerings. You can sign up at wave.google.com.
Google cheerfully admits that some Wave early adopters found it too slow and confusing for real use, and says it’s worked hard to spiff the service up. The basic idea remains the same: It’s part e-mail and part IM; it enables collaboration so real-time that you see what other folks type one character at a time; it can be embedded into blogs and other sites; it includes photo sharing, mobile versions, and what Google says is a revolutionary spell checker.
A year is a long time for anything to stay in closed beta–especially a collaborative platform. I’m not sure whether Wave’s public launch will lead to widespread usage or more controversy…or, maybe, both. Or maybe Wave will turn out to be less of a big deal than Google clearly thought it would be when it made it the centerpiece of last year’s developer conference. Whatever happens, it’ll good news that anyone who’s intrigued by Wave will get to judge it for himself or herself.