It’s common geek knowledge at this point that Google Wave is named after the predominant method of audio-visual transmission in the tragically short-lived science fiction series Firefly (and it’s feature film sequel, Serenity). What’s ironic about this association is how much Wave, at this stage of development, reminds me of Firefly character River Tam.
River (Google Wave) is a prodigy, exceedingly gifted in nearly every respect, consistently one-upping her older yet still talented sibling Simon (Gmail). As striking as her abilities are, they are only experienced through a fog of schizophrenia and instability. While Simon lacks any of River’s psychic insight, he is nonetheless remarkable and ultimately more reliable.
Okay, maybe I’m stretching the metaphor a bit. My point is that Wave has really cool moments, but they’re fleeting in this early state. While I haven’t experienced the rampant bugs reported by other users, I have noticed that the interface leaves a lot to be desired (it’s shockingly similar to Microsoft Outlook, neglecting the emphasis on conversation Gmail achieved), and things become cacophonous when a conversation has many participants.
What I dig about Wave are the live conversations, the ability to structure those conversations in any order you please, and the freedom that plugins give the service. What’s wonderful about these high points is that they aren’t unique to Google’s implementation of the Wave platform. Remember, Wave is an open source creation aimed at replacing email as a standard, with Google’s offering the inaugural product. Regardless of the current user experience, one can’t deny the capabilities of the service, which any group of enterprising designers and developers could leverage into something truly wonderful.
That’s not to say we should necessarily write off Google’s interface at this early stage of development. Sure, it’s a little loopy, but who knows? It might kick email’s butt after all.