I have had a wave account for some time, but I never really got it. I understood it as a communication platform and all of that, but I didn’t really understand what was in it for google. Then I thought a bit more about it and I remember something that Yahoo! said a long time ago, “email is the social network.” That didn’t make sense to me at all, until now.
Most people use email for a large chunk of their interaction with other people. By Yahoo! saying that email is the social network, they were indicating that most of what Facebook does is overglorified email. People typically, pre – facebook would share photos, music, and videos over email. The biggest complaint was that email didn’t allow them to have large enough attachments. Enter youtube and flickr. They allowed people to embed links to larger content and then email them.
Enter Facebook. Facebook allowed people to be able to control who could see what. It allowed for semi-private posting, plus all of the features of youtube and flicker with email. It became the ultimate communication platform. Once apps was created, it was over, runaway success.
Google initially tried to build a social network with Orcut, but that really wasn’t going to have the traction that Facebook had obtained. Google wisely stopped pushing that. When wave was announced, I thought that it was aimed specifically at outlook in the enterprise, and maybe some minor aspects of personal communication, but nothing significant. However, with their plugin system, and its federated nature, it starts to pretty much become a better facebook than facebook.
The first aspect of Google’s attack on Facebook with Wave is that it is private by default. Waves are only available to specific people or groups that you explicitly choose. You have a wave status that you can update, you can attach pretty large files or URIs, or even embed some content into the wave… There is commenting. It really feels like a social network, and the plugins are just genius. This will eventually challenge facebook since anyone can run a wave server. It also tackles Ning, and pretty much any other social network out there. All it takes is for Google to flip a switch to give users the option to produce a public wave, or a wave that all your contacts can see, and it starts seriously eyeing content management systems.
It attacks Twitter in that it is immediate, and it is optional. I can follow or unfollow waves as I wish, so I can jump in and out of conversations. Something that I have desperately wanted for some time, this is what makes Twitter and Yammer awesome. That I don’t always have to pay attention to them, email is too immediate, and there is always important stuff mixed up with unimportant stuff. Wave lets me discriminate. Wave will always scale better, and have more history, therefore more data mining value than Twitter. It is federated, and peered from what I understand of the spec, and therefore should be more resilient than anything a single company, save Google could build. Also since it is an open standard, more people should get behind it. If I were Twitter, I would be looking at how I could merge my service with the standard.
Wave destroys Yahoo mail, period. I would imagine that Yahoo has something up their sleeve since they killed 360, but they are hurting so badly for cash right now that I’m not sure. I think that a federated wave could hurt a lot of web email providers.
Finally, Microsoft. Exchange has hammered everyone for a decade with its expensive licensing and limited feature set. Wave easily destroys it on features and usability. Hopefully Google will unleash Wave into Google Docs, and the enterprise Google Docs. I think that savvy IT managers and most of the engineers will jump nearly immediately. This will be mostly the end of Yammer if it happens. Although I think Twitter and Yammer have features that wave is missing, the standards body could just add them, everyone could implement their UI for the features and be done with it. Microsoft exchange and outlook never really understood why anyone would need additional features and media types, so I don’t expect for it to live long past the wave proper launch with enterprise wave server and client providers. The costs would be so cheap that it would be difficult for them not to look at it. Especially since most enterprises are still running very old version of Exchange.
Microsoft has such a tarnished reputation in enterprise now that most people have to seriously look at whether to upgrade to the latest Microsoft thing or not. Mostly they trial it for extremely long periods before committing the updates to the masses. Since waves can persist, this can even replace sharepoint, and it does it with a metaphor that people are very comfortable with… email.