But there's more to Waves than text. Waves can include audio, video, images, gadgets and feeds, and of course they can be searched. Future revisions are likely to add spreadsheet embedding and data processing controls like red-eye reduction for photos. In video demonstration, Rasmussen and his team members show how photos can be dragged from Apple's iPhoto onto a Wave displayed in a browser to create an instant online shared photo album.
At the moment, Waves only allows collaboration and sharing between people with Google Account identities, but Rasmussen expects that developers will connect other identity services in short order.
As a developer preview release, Wave is a work in progress and is likely to evolve over time. Rasmussen says it's too early to tell whether Waves will have ads like Gmail messages or how much storage will be available for Wave users on Google's servers.
Some legal subtleties are still being worked out, too, such as issues of ownership.
"With e-mail you own and have the right to delete your copy of the e-mail," said Rasmussen. "With a Wave, you have the right to manage your access to a wave. But there's no one owner in terms of being able to delete the content." It remains to be seen whether Waves will pose any unique challenges to would-be censors or litigants.
Wave has the makings of a killer app, like e-mail before it. And while it may be tempting to assume that a killer app might put an end to less-capable modes of communication, like Twitter or forum software, Rasmussen insists Google's goal is to foster connection and communication rather than cull the herd.
Developers, he said, could probably "build a nice integration between Wave and Twitter that would help make Twitter even more popular."
Even so, as Google Wave breaks and comes ashore later this year, it could leave many applications gasping for breath.
InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on increasing application performance. Download the report here (registration required).