For the past couple of days I have had the pleasure of trying out Google Wave. It is a preview version so it suffers from the fact that I can only interact with people in my contracts who also received an invite (7 at present). But from what I have seen, it is impressive and has all the hallmarks of being something significant.
Some have seen Google Wave as a glorified chatting tool. To be sure that is what it does right away and like all tools of communication, it seems odd until norms evolve. There has been no chance of that with Wave yet.
The key characteristic is that it is a tool and a potentially very flexible one. My view is that its closest analogue is Facebook. Facebook turned out to be a platform that allowed friends to interact. This is in contrast to Twitter that is a tool that allows for broadcast. What Facebook lacked was the ability to partition interactions between friends and those between co-workers, etc. Wave appears to naturally allow that. What is more, it will integrate with anything with an API. That means that it is backwards compatible with Facebook. Finally, it works much better. It is light years ahead of Facebook engineering wise and I suspect more scalable in its technology. Wave works like a desktop (you can drag and drop photos and pdfs from anywhere and then search immediately). Facebook’s clunkiness is its biggest downside.
In areas where Wave is being seriously tested in the workplace, I have heard raves. Here is an account for what it might do for science. My prediction is that, if it works, it will integrate (your Facebook news, Twitter, blogs, and Linked In will be in the one place) and expand with new functions that will allow different and more partitioned interactions. Ultimately, its engineering may mean that Facebook faces some real competition. And with Google probably better able to manage advertising possibilities from the start, it may be the commercial way to go too.