Wave of the Future

While Google Wave itself might warrant a post of its own, I think it’s too early for me to provide much of a review of the technology. It works, but like any new service, it remains to be seen if it catches on.

What I’d instead like to discuss is what Google introduces – one communication medium to rule them all. But while Google has no trouble advancing an idea that Google Wave will be the standard that everyone switches over to, I want to consider what Google Wave could have been: a decentralized, multimedia communication service. Crazy talk, surely. But here’s the idea:

Status Quo

First, let’s try to figure out what common communication media we already have. This list is not comprehensive, of course, but you get the point:

  • Email
  • Instant Messaging
  • Twitter
  • Social Networks (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn)
  • Skype
  • Traditional Phone Service (land-line and cell)
  • Text Messaging
  • Google Wave

And what media do those services utilize?

  • Text
  • Voice
  • Video
  • Pictures

And which of those services are carrier independent (meaning there is no single owner of the service)?

  • Email
  • Text Messaging
  • Traditional Phone Service
  • Skype (paid version only)

So, which services require membership to a service owned by a single owner?

  • Instant Messaging
  • Twitter
  • Social Networks (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn)
  • Google Wave

Now, why can’t Facebook or Instant Messaging work like email where it doesn’t matter who your provider is to use that medium for communication? Well, in the case of Facebook, you must be a “member” of the “community” in order to use the service. Same thing with Instant Messaging. AIM, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, Facebook IM, Google Chat . . . the list goes on and on. But why should it matter what IM service you’re using?

Here’s the frustrating part. I can send an email to anyone on the planet with an email account, from any service to any other service. And it’s nearly instantaneous. And we’ve had that ability for well over a decade now. Why can’t that seamless and cross-compatible functionality exist for something like social networking websites or instant messaging? I mean, it certainly isn’t a matter of technical capability. Remember that list of media we use to communicate through all those various forms? Text, Voice, Video, Pictures. All of which can be sent via email (admittedly, time lag is an issue). So why can’t I send an IM to someone on Yahoo IM from my AIM account?

The older services, you will notice, are carrier independent. I can email anyone in the world on any service. I can text message anyone in the world on any service. I can call anyone in the world on any service. But beyond those three main communication services (email, text messaging, phone) cross-compatibility and/or service uniqueness  prevent such flexibility. The issue seems to be that the more modern services (Instant Messaging, Twitter, Social Networks, Google Wave) all rely on membership to a particular service provider.

I’d like to develop this idea further in future posts, but I would like to first write a post about the newly-released iPad from Apple. Yes, it will be yet another take on the iPad. But hopefully once I’ve had time to absorb and think on some of the reviews and opinions floating out there about the device, I can create a post with some perspective that’s worth reading.

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