Google has signaled that they would like to see wave widely adopted. In service of that goal they have a dot-org site which reveals a rough draft for a design that enables wave servers to interoperate so their users can collaborate. But, the whole story is much more complex. There is a lot to do before their signaled desire can become a widespread reality.
Let’s start with that picture. Google has revealed some of the plumbing that might form a standard on the boundary between Wave Service providers and any Wave Federations that may emerge. Lower in the drawing we have some hints about how the traffic between members of these federations might move. The term XMPP is mentioned. But that is really not enough. I’m not bothered by that, it’s early days and rough specs are to be expected.
Let’s move up in drawing, into the Wave Service Providers box. It would have been a more credible industrial standard move if Google had one or two other players willing to run up on stage and signal their intent to become Wave Service Providers. Alternately they might have released a complete reference implementation for a Wave Service Provider and, of course, they should place it under an open source license. The word providers is plural, but at the moment we can only be confident that Google will deploy. Until some other names signal that they are, at minimum, seriously considering wave I think it is fair to say: Google’s open platform signal isn’t really credible. It’s not a party if your peers don’t come. It’s a certain kind of federation if all your partners are tiny and you are huge. But, again, it’s early days and it’s a big world out there so I’m sure Google can find somebody to come on board.
All the cut points in that layer cake is full of make or break options for Google. Take a historcial example up at the top, whe the Macintosh shipped in 1984 they set a stellar example of getting that bit right. They provided beautiful example applications and they provided clear and concise user interface guidelines. Right now all we have is an example application, one which almost a research proof of concept. It certainly isn’t as elegant a user experiance as the other Google web apps.
Much as my layer cake implies we will see multiple wave service providers it implies we will see multiple wave aware applications. How many? I think, and hope, it’s many. But were is the signal from Google about this? One wonders where the Google Search, Maps, Mail, Calendar, Docs, Voice etc. teams stand on all this? Now, I think it would be insane for Google to take the risk of forcing all and sundry through out the company into a forced march to adopt wave. But it’s very odd that you could make the argument that there will be only one wave aware application. We need a much clearer signal about this.
Say you wanted to build an application for collaborative bill payment. Questions start popping up fast. Do you design it as plugin to some master wave application’s UI? There was a period in the 80s and early 90s when a lot of the desktop OS vendors tried to create unified application frameworks; these didn’t work out. Often it didn’t work out due to market power dynamics between the app vendors and the OS vendors and to a lesser degree it didn’t work out due to execution issues; but it looks to me like the same questions arise here.
Say I’m a vendor of web forum software, my customers install it on their systems. Say I’m contemplating building a next generation version that’s wave aware, can it be installed on any of N wave service providers? Does that sentence even meaningful? This looks like a rerun. We spend a lot of time in the 80s building software so it could run across multiple platforms. These wave service providers look to me very similar to cloud computing vendors, very similar to platform vendors, and very similar to desk top OS vendors with their UI minimally interoperable user interface conventions.
Google has revealed a bit of the API provided by their sandbox Wave Service Provider. How to build automated participants (aka robots), and how to build smallish widgets that provide little visualizations and games. There is bit of hint that it will be possible how to build entirely unique kinds of wave documents. That is one of the signs that it would be possible to build, say, a wave aware accounting application, a wave aware college admissions system, a wave aware travel agency.
It’s early days and none of the above should be taken as critical. It is my intent to see if I can block out what I’d like to see happen. Or maybe to just start to block out where to ask questions about what’s to be desired.