What is the Use Case for Google Wave?

This will be a very short blog post. I’ve had Google Wave for about two weeks now and I still can’t identify the core use case the product is seeking to address. I don’t have generic collaboration needs – I have plenty of specific situations where collaboration is helpful, but they’re all fairly custom. For example, I would have been really happy if Google had integrated Google Chat as a persistent sidebar in Google Docs and Spreadsheets – that would be something that would fit the way I already use those products and make them incrementally more useful. Ditto on the ability to leave notes or keep a log of persistent communication over the life of the document. But Google Wave doesn’t seem to be tailored to any of the use cases above. What problem is this trying to solve?

What am I missing? Can someone help me out?

  • elita

    I've been using it quite a bit actually for our two person team… treating it as gmail+wiki+notes. can't wait for a bug tracker extension 🙂 I find it to be an easy way to share, search, track and comment on small thoughts/ideas/notes.

  • This is the first good use case I've heard. Perhaps they should have a use case gallery instead of an app store. I think the former would help more people than the latter.

  • I've noticed that some people haven't got the Welcome to Google Wave email, but there is a link to another Wave called: “When to Use Google Wave” that has a number of good use cases, and you can even check out the examples. Those definitely made me think about things that weren't on the top of my mind. If you don't have it, I could add you to it.

    I work on an internal collaboration team of a huge company and we are trying to get people to use a mish-mash of all our tools together, but after getting into Google Wave I realized this would be a dream come true for most use cases that I'm trying to sell to people.

    I honestly think that Wave is really just Google's Business Collaboration suite, or at least that is where it would provide the most value, as people are forced to work on things together all the time, garnering tons of emails all with chained replies (see comments below in red/green/blue), as well with the meeting minutes and just generating docs.

    I think it's also hard to get a good feel for Wave's usefulness with such a limited amount of people on it, and it's really just not going to make sense for most people, but for some tasks it's just right, it's like a wiki page, but chat at the same time, like a live brainstorming or mindmapping solution. The problem is that it's good a specific situations, not everything, and most people don't know what situations they are good for, and even less ever need to use those situations in their personal lives.

    Anyways, just my thoughts so far, it's still seems really buggy and unpolished, and most people are so disappointed because it's not primarily a personal tool, it's just the hottest toy people want.

  • I agree, i can't find a reason for using Google Wave within my normal workflow. I finally got access this morning and i'm struggling with how or why i should use it. Sounded like a lovely idea during the pre-launch hype, but now i have it, i'm lost.

  • I think the technology itself is pretty revolutionary and can be broken out into different useful modules, even if the entire tool itself isn't immediately useful to the average user. People just are not yet accustomed to using email/chat/file sharing in this way. We're rooted in old habits (just like how millions of email users still can't grasp message threading in gmail or how people stick to their bb because they can't use an on-screen keyboard on an iphone) and we might not get it right now, but maybe someone with a cleaner slate (a 13-yo new to collaboration tools?) would. I definitely feel like it's one of those things of the future and that it will pick up soon! Just make sure you're an early adopter! 🙂

  • Ivan,

    Thanks so much for the detailed reply. I really enjoyed reading it. My real concern is that Wave might be overkill. Why create an entirely new product when adding more collaboration tools (particularly some asynchronous ones) to the existing suite of tools in GDocs might have delivered more immediate value to users?

  • Very useful for creating documents with many (or even just two) people as collaborators/editors.
    The App I'm looking forward to see is a project management tool.

    It would also help adoption once they manage to allow sending and recieving using 'standard' email adresses rather than username@googlewave.com

  • You're asking the wrong question.

    What is the use case for email? telephone? writing letters? posting to forums? subscribing to mailing lists? chatting online? sharing status updates a la Twitter?

    Communication.

    Wave is just another form of communication, and its use cases are as diverse as there are people to use it.

    As for what problems is it trying to solve, here's a few:

    Email has many copies of a conversation – Wave has one hosted, shared copy.
    Email threads with branches are hard to follow and reconstruct. Wave handles this is one place.
    It's hard to add someone into an email thread and share the history of the discussion – this is easy in Wave.
    Emails cannot be edited after sending. Waves can.
    It's hard to respond to specific points in an email thread. In a wave you can reply at a particular point easily.

    There are many more which have been written about too.

    I agree Wave is unfamiliar and its not obvious how to use it, but it's no different than when any other new form of communication came out. When mobiles came out with SMS, not everyone had one, and people wondered what use text messaging was. Now look at all the use cases that have evolved.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Alex. I guess I'm hung up on how to use Wave because I can broadly classify most communication tools into one bucket (or possibly two) by looking at two dimensions:

    Asynchronous or Synchronous
    One-to-one or one-to-many

    For example, I'd put the telegraph in the asynchronous one-to-many or one-to-one bucket(s). Email? That's asynchronous 1-to-1 or 1-to-many. Voicemail? That's asynchronous voice, generally 1-to-1. IM? Synchronous 1-to-1. I won't go on at length. I agree with your core point that most new communication tools do not always have obvious use cases up front.

    My issue, though, is that I can't think of many successful communication / collaboration tools that didn't set out to solve some easy to describe problem. Two examples:

    Voicemail – I wanted to talk to you but you didn't pick up. Here's what I wanted to tell you
    IM – Rather than phone or email you, I'd like to chat in real-time

    So, I have a hard time bucketing Google Wave in my simple 2×2 system. What i fear, too, is that most uber-collaboration suites I've seen have failed. And I think that's because most people are reasonably facile managing different communication tools for different use cases. An uber tool that only excels by unifying might not capture the imagination of the average user. It's clear to me that Google Wave is solving some high-end or specific use cases for enterprises.

    Is your assertion that Google Wave is trying to make email better? Gmail does that. Is it supposed to make collaboration broadly more useful?

  • You’re asking the wrong question.

    What is the use case for email? telephone? writing letters? posting to forums? subscribing to mailing lists? chatting online? sharing status updates a la Twitter?

    Communication.

    Wave is just another form of communication, and its use cases are as diverse as there are people to use it.

    As for what problems is it trying to solve, here’s a few:

    Email has many copies of a conversation – Wave has one hosted, shared copy.
    Email threads with branches are hard to follow and reconstruct. Wave handles this is one place.
    It’s hard to add someone into an email thread and share the history of the discussion – this is easy in Wave.
    Emails cannot be edited after sending. Waves can.
    It’s hard to respond to specific points in an email thread. In a wave you can reply at a particular point easily.

    There are many more which have been written about too.

    I agree Wave is unfamiliar and its not obvious how to use it, but it’s no different than when any other new form of communication came out. When mobiles came out with SMS, not everyone had one, and people wondered what use text messaging was. Now look at all the use cases that have evolved.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Alex. I guess I’m hung up on how to use Wave because I can broadly classify most communication tools into one bucket (or possibly two) by looking at two dimensions:nnAsynchronous or SynchronousnOne-to-one or one-to-manynnFor example, I’d put the telegraph in the asynchronous one-to-many or one-to-one bucket(s). Email? That’s asynchronous 1-to-1 or 1-to-many. Voicemail? That’s asynchronous voice, generally 1-to-1. IM? Synchronous 1-to-1. I won’t go on at length. I agree with your core point that most new communication tools do not always have obvious use cases up front. nnMy issue, though, is that I can’t think of many successful communication / collaboration tools that didn’t set out to solve some easy to describe problem. Two examples:nnVoicemail – I wanted to talk to you but you didn’t pick up. Here’s what I wanted to tell younIM – Rather than phone or email you, I’d like to chat in real-timennSo, I have a hard time bucketing Google Wave in my simple 2×2 system. What i fear, too, is that most uber-collaboration suites I’ve seen have failed. And I think that’s because most people are reasonably facile managing different communication tools for different use cases. An uber tool that only excels by unifying might not capture the imagination of the average user. It’s clear to me that Google Wave is solving some high-end or specific use cases for enterprises.nnIs your assertion that Google Wave is trying to make email better? Gmail does that. Is it supposed to make collaboration broadly more useful?