Google will be sending out 100,000 invites to its social media service Google Wave this afternoon, allowing people to trial one if its highest profile new arrivals.
The invites will be sent out to four broad groups; those that registered for the service back when it was announced, the developers who helped test it, some of Google's paying customers and, interestingly, those that are invited by the people who have been brought into the scheme. Each recipient will also be able to invite more people, so the total number will be over 100,000.
Anthony House, Head of Communications and Public Affairs at Google, told TechRadar what was going on.
"There's a steep learning curve on usage," he explains. "It'll be interesting to see how it works with consumers, because right now it's being tested by developers and Google employees.
"Most people use it like email – people write back or start writing back within messages. But because of the way Wave is architected, and because it's collaborative and it doesn't require you to do things at the same time, you can actually start using it in different ways."
"The functionality [of Wave] really lends itself to doing things that are asynchronous and so you end up creating tools that people can use in the ways they can't use email. One example is the RSVP widget."
House says the idea of Wave is that everything is accessible through a flexible user interface and there's already a mobile version of it.
"I've started saying that I'm Waving at someone... it seems like a convenient verb to use," he jokes.
"The challenge is that there's so much going on at any one time – how do you communicate it to the user in a simple interface. Wee can close this and widen out the wave itself, but the idea is that you should be able to pop things out like you pop out your Gmail windows."
"Essentially because people are editing a single document and because it's both a process and an artefact, the way you get to what you get to is important but so too is what you end up with."
"You interact with a Wave in some form between an email and a shared document. But it ends up becoming more useful than both.
"The challenge I've found is what you then do with Waves. So you could imagine that we could all collaborate in some kind of document.
"The challenge going forward is how to have access permissions and versions that allow you to both collaborate and [allow others in] without ending up with 30,000 different Waves."
"Right now there are lots of things we built ourselves that you can implement in Wave. It essentially brings your Twitter into your Inbox so whenever someone tweets it pops up as an unread message."
What does access bring?
So what is Google planning to give people access to Wave?
"The plan with Wave right now is that we're expanding access to 100,000 people but it will still very much be a preview so for example the Insert gadget button doesn't work right now."
The service is currently moving from its testing area (wavesandboxs.com) to its permanent home (wave.google.com). "The other interesting thing I see from Wave is that the goal is to create new platforms and to see whether new platforms will flourish or not rather than just building a product," says House.
"For things like Wave that's obviously important since it's a communications platform and we don't expect that everyone who wants to use a Google product. It's important that it's open source... for it to be useful.
"The same tendency towards platforms is true to a lesser extent in Chrome, but certainly in Android."
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