The Google Wave Developer Preview at Google I/O two days ago showcased Google's latest ambitious project. This browser-based interface is currently open only to the developers present at the preview talk. The project comes in three main sections - the product itself, the API platform, and Wave as a protocol. Google Wave is an attempt to update e-mail, which has been around for years, into a more relevant form. The team asked themselves what e-mail would be like if it was invented today. Answering this question, they created something that is heavily influenced by real-time communication, hybrid workflows, and browser-based social media.

The features that are particularly unique within the product itself:

Replies within an email can be inserted at any point, resulting in branching thread structure
Hosted e-mail shows what is typed in real-time on nearly per-character basis
Playback feature enables a newly added contact to catch up on what happened before he or she was added to the conversation thread
Private Reply allows two participants in the "Wave" thread to communicate independently of others, but still within the conversation
Drag and Drop fron desktop to browser, only if Google Gears is installed
Instant image sharing, collaborative editing
Waves are embeddable - can be inserted into a Web page or blog, retain all functionality for comments to be incorporated into thread
Mobile accessible, in demo with an Android phone and an iPhone
Waves can be Wikis with collaborative functionality showing who edits material with Playback feature
Open-source for developers to build their own extensions, use Wave on their own servers

Mike Elgan of ComputerWorld projects the possibility of user confusion from Wave's non-linear style, which departs from Google's trademark simplicity. Even so, this HTML5 application could show what the browser is really capable of. Isn't that worth a little disorientation?