Google has given the first public demonstration of how its Wave collaboration platform can integrate with Novell's rival Pulse system at Linux.conf.au 2010 in New Zealand, while also offering some insights into the future development of the Wave protocol.
We envision a greater ecosystem of many providers all interoperating.
Wave product manager Dan Peterson
Google Wave product manager Dan Peterson showed a prepared demo of Pulse communicating with an existing Wave server during a "miniconf" session on working with Wave.
"They've managed to take the code and integrate it with their existing product and now the two systems are talking," Peterson said, adding that there are still a number of problems with the implementation: "We're all working through the bugs together."
Novell announced plans for Pulse in November last year, and is scheduled to release the product later in 2010. Initially it will be offered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) package.
Google has more than a million active users on its own Wave implementation, but Peterson argued that getting other software providers to adopt the protocol was crucial.
"What excites me most about Wave is the protocol aspect, and the ability for Waves to have lots of different providers," he said. "Just like email is the technology behind Gmail or Hotmail or whatever it might be, Wave is the technology behind Google Wave and hopefully many other products as well. We envision a greater ecosystem of many providers all interoperating."
To provide an extreme example of how the Wave protocol can be used, Peterson offered a brief demonstration of a Wave implementation using the Emacs text editor, developed by an enthusiast in New York. The Emacs solution used reverse engineering, an approach Google doesn't officially endorse, preferring to encourage developers to use publicly documented APIS.
Google also intends to make the code for its Wave editor available as an open source project, although that may take some time. "We have to disentangle a lot of our Google-specific infrastructure," Peterson said.
"We need to continue to work out where the line is between Google Wave the product and Wave the technology. We need more use cases like Novell Pulse to figure out where that line should be."
One feature that Google has given up on for the time being, however, is providing tighter integration between Google Wave and email. One common criticism of Wave is the lack of notification when a collaborative Wave gets updated, but Peterson argued that providing real-time notifications would not be effective either.
"We tried really hard to build an email gateway — man is it hard," he said. "The use cases involved, taking Wave and having it interoperate with email, ends up making Wave more like email."
A particular challenge was dealing with frequent updates, which Wave tracks on a character-by-character basis. "There's enough of those issues we ended up putting it on the backburner," Peterson said.
While gateway development is unlikely, Google is still working on a more general notification system that can utilise email, though it hasn't set any timeframe for release.