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Ever since Google announced Wave, their all-encompassing real-time communication tool, there has been a dull murmur of online anticipation across the blogosphere. Yesterday that turned from quiet expectation into unbridled hysteria.
As promised, Google released the programme to 100,000 invited users to begin final beta testing; the response, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been emphatic. Google Wave is, and has been trending at the top of Twitter for some time. Newspapers, blogs and news agencies have been clamouring for reviews, screenshots and that all important invite.
If the social media tweeting is to be believed, the 100,000 invites are cherished in a fashion akin to a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Below there’s a random assortment of messages helping to spread the excitement across web 2.0 and keeping Wave trending at the top of Twitter. But there’s worse still, there are now bids in excess of $100 on Ebay; people are so desperate to get their hands on Wave before everybody else (other than 99,999 others of course) that they are willing to part with hard-earned money.
Of course, this is all well and good, but is Google Wave really going to revolutionise the way we all communicate online? From an objective outsider point of view (I don’t have an invite to Google Wave), it’s hard to see how. Yes, chatting in real-time with friends or clients across numerous lines of conversation is an interesting concept, but is it all that different to Facebook or Twitter? Picture sharing is made quicker and easier, but again, this has already been covered by most social media sites.
Google Wave will make a massive impact, and no doubt news of its initial popularity will be about as welcome as a mistakenly delivered copy of The Sun at 10 Downing Street with Microsoft and Yahoo, but are they just reinventing the wheel? Facebook, the clear leaders in the social media race, are now involving most elements of Wave, including email, instant messages and document sharing. The acquisition of FriendFeed will undoubtedly see the functionality of Facebook change dramatically in the coming months and years too, so how will Wave compete with a site that already has 300 million registered users? Wave brings all the elements together in a neat bundle, but it also requires mass-participation in order to succeed. Will this ultimately bring its downfall?
If some friends are on Facebook, some are on Twitter and others use Wave, what do you choose to use? Are Google trying to muscle in on areas that are already overpopulated and, to a large extent, have already been conquered, or are they in fact bringing everything under one convenient user-friendly banner?
What Google do have on their side is a brand. The Google brand has become a byword for innovation and doubtless Wave will continue this; but it needs to break out of simply being a supplier of gadgets for technophiles and break the mainstream. They remain the kings of search and the release of Wave invitations yesterday has shown just how interested people are in seeing what they produce, but are they diversifying too much?
So long as there search algorithm remains the best, and it should be noted that Microsoft have made huge inroads into that superiority with Bing, then there are no issues with how many additional services they provide. However, do they risk diluting their reputation as a search engine by spreading their services across other formats like the social media orientated Wave, or does this simply enhance their reputation and ability to innovate?
As an SEO agency we use Google as the benchmark for many of our enhancements and utilise a number of their tools, including AdWords and Analytics for pay per click management. It is, therefore, almost impossible to consider the Internet without them. So whilst Wave provides an interesting new talking point, the advancement of search and the introduction of the likes of Google Caffeine are still what make the company so vital. Bring on YaBing!