E-mail, as you know, was invented in the early 1960s, and, of course, was designed to mimic snail mail. But the invention of e-mail predates the Internet, and was way before all the recent developments in social media and social sharing sites--before Wikis, message boards and Instant Messaging. So when Google started to work on a replacement for traditional e-mail, they started by asking themselves What would e-mail look like were it invented today?
Well, turns out it's still browser-based, like the old e-mail. But imagine that you're typing an e-mail to your friend, but he's online as you're typing it. Guess what? Your friend sees you typing live, sort of like an IM, but in real time! So it's more like messaging than email, that is, IF the recipient is online. If your friend is offline, it reads more like a trail on Facebook, or your standard message board. But you can add people into the mix, so you're CCing people live, if they happen to be online, or including them in the conversation, if they're offline. You can even drag photos from your desktop, live, and they appear immediately into the conversation.
The technology, called Wave, is purposely Open Source (they're counting on US to help build the functionality) and can also be embedded on blogs, so users can carry these conversations into the blogosphere. An old-fashioned comment is now a conversation that exists ON the blog, like normal, but also in the Wave client, simultaneously. You don't even have to be on the blog site to comment.
No surprise that all of these updates can be done live from your mobile phone, just like an IM.
AND it's all like a Wiki because you can edit each other within the conversation. Afraid of someone rewriting history? The whole trail of the edits is viewable. So that can't really happen. Reversion is always possible, like, say, in Photoshop.
Of course, this post is entirely based on Google's demo. Who knows when it's actually released if it'll really work as smoothly as they make it sound. But that shouldn't stop you from getting jazzed about the realm of possibilities here, which is the most exciting part by my way of thinking. Whether the Beta works now or a year from now, eventually we're all going to be catching the Wave. And I've only hit the highlights. There are robots that perform tasks, like instant, live translation between some 40 languages, polls you can create for your friends, games, and a whole host of other features.
If you want to catch the full video demo at Google I/O 2009, check it out after the jump.