Google Wave to come ashore in September

Google has announced it will launch its integrated communication tool Wave at the end of September. It appears to be a service that is only as good as the way people choose to use it, though the Google brand name will give it a much stronger chance of acceptance.

The firm has announced that the tool, currently open only to 25,000 developers, will be released to 100,000 members of the public on 30 September, then opened to everyone around a month later.

So what is Google Wave? Well, perhaps the best way to describe it is to imagine the grandchild of Gmail, Google Docs, MSN and Wikipedia.

The system brings together multiple communications technologies into a single window, allowing users to share information from a variety of sources in real-time. Each conversation or collaboration is known as a Wave (taken from a phrase in the TV series Firefly), which is in reality an XML document that allows users to reply and edit the contents. This screenshot shows the system in action.

Of course, that’s all just a concept; what matters is how it is used. The possibilities suggested so far range from the extremely simple (instant messaging in which the person you are communicating with can see your reply as you type rather than waiting for the send key), to the more complex (dragging a Twitter feed directly into a conversation rather than having to send a link) to the mindboggling (bloggers writing their posts live on their website with readers making comments as they go).

The biggest problem with promoting a service such as this is that it’s easiest explained by examples, but each example will only be of interest to some people. Andy Ithnako of the Chicago Sun Times likens it to demonstrating electricity with a lightbulb, leaving the audience concentrating on one effect (illumination) rather than the concept itself.

Still, Google’s strong reputation may persuade more people to try out the tool than if virtually any other company had a similar idea.