Just as criticism was rising that Google was being overshadowed in the realm of the real-time web by Twitter, the search giant introduced an ambitious new platform, long in the works, that represented, among other things, a bold step forward in real-time web use. Even if it doesn’t fulfill all of its ambitions, Wave will surely shed light on the ongoing debate about where real-time tools are most effectively applied, which facets of our lives we want in real time and which we don’t.
Still in early development, Google Wave — which combines email, chat, document collaboration and more — presents far more possibilities than capabilities and could mark the start of a new chapter in exploring more real-time use of the Internet. Its immediate application will have direct impacts on unified communications, collaboration, social networking and messaging. And its expandability through other applications, including automated processes, opens the door to far more real-time activity. But it’s still unclear how useful and how limited its real-time capabilities will ultimately prove to be. The value of real time in relation to its inherent sacrifices in terms of quality and relevance is still being debated. Wave will help test and define the limits of users’ demand for real-time activities as well as their willingness to significantly alter the way they communicate today. And while Wave’s extendibility offers the potential to scale its powers dramatically, that dramatic scale could also introduce performance issues that threaten the real-time experience, thus mapping out still more limitations of the real-time Internet.