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Google Wave is back!

Wave was poised to revolutionize communication and collaboration when it launched last year. Only it was only given to a handful of groups and lots of confused consumers.

Remember Google Wave? It was that thing that Google launched last year that seemed like a great idea, got a ton of hype, and then turned out to be a solution waiting for a problem? I liked Wave in concept, but in practice, it wasn't useful for the average consumer. It needed a group.

So the consumers and individuals who tried it were left confused and many (myself included) set it aside, in favor of expanded use of Google Docs, plain old email, or social tools like Facebook. The buzz (no pun intended) died down and most folks just forgot about it. However, a handful of businesses and organizations kept working with it and a bunch of Googlers, mostly based in Australia, kept improving it. The group learned three important lessons that they described to journalists today:

  • Wave shines for groups of people getting things done together
  • Shows great future potential for broader applications
  • Needed much more work on helping users understand what Wave is for and how to use it.

To that end, Google announced at I/O today that it is relaunching Wave, making it available to all users without invitations, and, more importantly, opening it up as a Google Labs feature to all domains that have deployed Google Apps. It's about time! This was, after all, a group collaboration tool. Makes sense that it was meant to be used by, well, a group. Preferably a group already steeped in the Google ecosystem. Oh, say, like one using Google Apps.

In all seriousness, though, this second iteration of Google Wave looks to be a drastic improvement over the first, not just because the use cases have crystallized and Apps users have unfettered access to the tool, but also because the product itself has matured considerably. According to the press release,

If you tried Google Wave out a while ago, and found it not quite ready for real use: now is a good time to come back for a second try. Wave is much faster and much more stable than when we began the preview, and we have worked hard to make Wave easier to use. For example, you can now get email notifications when waves change, easily navigate to unread parts of a wave, and remove participants added by mistake. We have also added permission management options and an extensions gallery.

Similarly, Google has opened up more of the Wave API, improved the function and integration of the robots that could interact with Waves (and actually create their own), and open sourced the document model and federation tools associated with Wave. Google has even rolled out anonymous access to public waves, creating a lightweight, interactive publishing platform.

Gallery Tour: Google Wave Returns

Clearly, this product is still in an evolutionary phase. However, it now represents another Google platform on which developers can hang their hats and around which businesses can build innovative collaborative processes and tools. Check out this gallery for some pictures of the new Wave in action and talk back to let us know how you can see an organization putting Wave to work. Google's message is that Wave is for groups of people who want to get things done. I'm inclined to think Wave might finally be ready for getting things done rather than just keeping Google in the headlines with product buzz.