That simplifies it down to a sound bite, but let's take a further look.
First of all, I should say that it's in super-uber-beta yet, so there are a decent number of kinks to work out. For example, it says it works in Firefox 3.5, but I've the most recent stable Firefox installed and I had to delete my cache before it would work (why? I have no idea. But it worked.) But, aside from that, this is what I've learned today...
In a particular wave (a specific conversation that's been started):
* You can simultaneously be typing and see what other people are also typing (realtime).
* You can edit anything you write AND anything that other people write
* You can add files such as images or video
* With some extensions (added plugins) you can also have sound or live audio or video chat
* Other extensions let you add maps or other useful things
So basically, it's like getting all your friends (or coworkers, or whatever) up to the same whiteboard, giving them all markers and all erasers, and access to post pictures/video/etc all over the same whiteboard all at once. Sound complicated? It wasn't too bad, actually.
Some of my concerns were:
* How can I tell if someone has edited a post? Answer: it says so, right where it says who wrote the post. If someone makes a change since the last time you saw it, it highlights the change. There is a way to see how each individual change was made (you can "play back" the wave, which shows bit by bit how it was changed), so that should at least somewhat discourage people from being dishonestly stupid in the "he said" "no I didn't!" sense (not that I've ever seen that on the internet...).
* Is there a way to make something un-editable? Answer: Not that I can tell, not yet. This makes it less useful for things like, say, classroom teaching, where as a teacher I might be inclined to want to mark specific things un-editable by students. However it's possible that I just wasn't able to figure it out yet.
* How can I tell if my friends/coworkers/collaborators are online? Answer: I don't think you can, just yet. This makes me sad because if I want to get people online to do a collaborative thing, it helps to know if they're actually online.
* There's a bug that doesn't show people's avatars. Not a big deal, and I'm sure they'll get it fixed, but it does make it harder to see who's invited to a specific wave.
* In order to do sound/video chat I have to install an extension. It's not entirely clear to me how much info the companies who make the extensions get to pull about you. (I hate FB apps too, can you tell?)
* When two or more people are participating in a simultaneous chat, sometimes people will respond to things that are currently being said in a different "blip" (ok, I hate "blip" and I think it should be called "wavelet" - basically a single "post" within a wave). What this means is that the conversation can make utterly no sense whatsoever:
wavelet1 wrote:Hi I was just thinking that we should go to the Bahamas for spring break. No not yet, I wanted to know when to leave.
Ok, hey did you know that Jerry left a ton of radishes in the fridge?
wavelet2 wrote:Yeah, that sounds good. Have you checked out prices?
No, really? Why?
That's a pretty simple example, but imagine having more than one person and people editing and messing with everything all at the same time. I think this is something that would get pretty confusing.
One thing that is nice is you can hit spacebar to read all the "new" stuff. So at least you don't have to go and find it all (new stuff is marked with a vertical bar on the side).
I would like an extension that lets me make and move flowchart bits all over the place and type in them and add arrows and things. That would be a nice, powerful, useful thing for collaborations. It would also be useful to have things like a white board space, an image space, a "chat" space all for the same wave.
For now, I give Google Wave a / but I think it will improve as people beta it, give feedback, and create more extensions for it.
(and no, I don't have any invites yet)