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Understanding Google Wave

written by: Arnold Zafra•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 11/9/2009

Currently under a limited preview, Google Wave is the mighty search engine's take on another online communication and collaboration tool. You can simply think of it as a combination of Gmail, Google Docs and real-time networking.

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    Introduction to Google Wave

    Google defines it as an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. The basic component is of course the "wave" which can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

    Google Wave is like a social spectrum, where its components - the Google Wave members interact, communicate, collaborate, share ideas in whatever forms - in real-time. "Real-time" is the key concept here. Google Wave is supposed to work in real time.

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    What is a Wave?

    Wave is the main component of Google Wave. Wave can either be a conversation or document. Everything that you do in Google Wave. Whether you're throwing out a question, sharing a file or document or reading feeds from bots you've added; it starts with the wave. The conversation and transactions happen inside a wave. Your contacts reply and communicate to you via the wave.

    You can add another participant anytime you want to. Likewise a participant can add another participant to the wave even if that participant is not in your contact list.

    You share a wave in real-time. Anything that you type inside a wave gets transmitted to contacts you've added into it as you type. The participants you've selected can jump in as you type and input their own edits.

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    Google Wave Uses

    Now that you have an idea of what Google Wave is, you might ask so what are you going to use it for. There are actually many uses of Google Wave. You can use it to organize an event. You can add participants, discuss venue and logistics and, before you know it, you have already planned out an event.

    You can also use Google Wave to collaborate on group projects. Add your classmates or co-workers to a wave and then start collaborating, exchanging ideas, sharing notes and all those sort of things.

    Other uses of Google Wave could be for sharing photos, meeting notes, playing interactive games, brainstorming with groups of people, checking on your Twitter account, searching for products in various online sites such as Amazon.

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    What are Google Wave Extensions?

    To make your Google Wave experience livelier and more fun you can add extensions. These are add-ons that bring new functionality to your Wave account. You can use these extensions to automate common tasks as well as for inserting new gadgets.

    There are two types of Wave extensions - Wave gadgets and bots. Gadgets are similar to web widgets which are actually shared applications that you can run within a wave. All participants of that wave can use the gadgets within the wave. Example of wave gadgets are maps and voting gadgets.

    The other type of extension are the bots. These are applications that you can add to waves as automated participants. Bots automate common tasks but can also participate in the discussion.

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    If you're among the lucky users who were given access to the Google Wave beta, chances are you're still learning how Google Wave works. Don't worry because you are not alone. The majority of those 100,000 users which were given beta invites are probably still figuring out how to use Google Wave productively.

    I would have to say that Google Wave is difficult to understand. Using it more frequently will not help. Plus, you need to have a lot of contacts so that you will have the necessary participants to make a wave successful and truly collaborative.

    Bottomline is, Google must open Google Wave to the public as soon as possible. This will result more ideas and experience that could make it a better product.