Google has invited a limited number of people to help it test its new social editing tool, Google Wave. The tool combines email, instant messaging and wiki-style live editing and went on public trial yesterday, with its creators describing it as “how e-mail would look if it were invented today”. The beta trial will be open to 100,000 invitees from 1600BST, each of whom can nominate five further people to “join the Wave”.
The ‘communication and collaboration tool’ is also open source, meaning third party developers can build applications for it, with early examples being Sudoku and Chess games.
Google Wave was developed by brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who were the brains behind Google Maps.
Lars Rasmussen said: “It struck us that e-mail is still the main communication tool on the web, which seemed remarkable given that it is 20-year-old technology.”
In designing Wave, the brothers took as a starting point the idea of “a conversation sitting in a cloud”.
The tool features real-time typing, letting users see a comment being written character by character and can formulate their answer to a question before a fellow ‘Waver’ has even finished asking it.
The developers are also working on a draft mode which will allow the real-time aspect to be switched off.
Unlike traditional instant messenger (IM) conversations continue even once everyone has logged out. This means that those invited to a Wave conversation but not currently online, can read the message strand in full at a later date.
All messages can be edited at any point by members of the conversation and a Playback facility allows everyone to see exactly who has edited what and at what time.
Meanwhile, photos can simply be dragged from the desktop onto the Wave platform.
“If you are planning a trip. you can talk about it and plan it in Wave and then share all the photos at the end,” said product manager Stephanie Hannon.
Google Wave runs in most browsers, with the notable exception of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE). Users of IE will have to download a plug-in, known as Chrome Frame to use the application.
Wave will have a full consumer launch early next year.