Structured like Gmail, the developer and end-user software interoperates with other Web services, such as IM, forums, wikis, and blogs.
At its developer conference on Thursday, Google plans to offer attendees a chance to try Google Wave, the company's new real-time collaborative communication system.
Lars Rasmussen, who was lead engineer for Google Maps before co-founding the Wave team with his brother Jens, describes Wave as "what e-mail might look like if it were invented today."
But Wave encompasses more than e-mail. It matches or exceeds the functionality of several major application types, including instant messaging, discussion forum software, wikis, and blogs. Rather, it will eventually, as it moves toward commercial release later this year.
Google Wave is a product, a platform, and a protocol. It's a cross between conversation and document that allows users to do with one tool what they currently do with many. It works in a Web browser on the desktop or on mobile phones, like Apple's iPhone or Google Android devices.
Just as Ajax technology has blurred the identity of Web sites by allowing content to be embedded on any Web site, Wave blurs the distinctions between communications modes and between content creation applications.
Writing a Wave is a lot like typing text into Gmail, Google Docs, or a blog posting form in one's browser. To the left of the right-hand column featuring the discussion, there's an in-box with other Waves. And to the left of that, there's a navigation pane atop a list of contacts that looks very similar to Gmail's layout.
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