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Google Wave review: first look

Google Wave has been the most hyped product on the internet since the introduction of Google’s Gmail. We take a look at what it’s got to offer and ask if it really is going to replace email.

The technology is all open source, which is not only in keeping with Google's ethos, but is absolutely crucial to the project's success. Google announced Wave much earlier than it normally would for a project as it wanted to encourage the developer community to get stuck in and create applications or extensions' that would make it more useful to users at launch.

Once you've got hold of a hallowed invitation, you simply head over to wave.google.com and sign into your Google account as normal. Here you'll be presented with an email-like view. At the top left is the navigation bar with folders where you organise your Waves', with an Inbox and related folders. Beneath this are your contacts. To the right of this is your list of Waves, similar to your list of email in a client such as Outlook. Finally on the right is the Wave itself.

Click on New Wave' and a box will appear into which you can type, with a toolbar at the top for basic formatting. What's immediately different is that if your contact is logged in at the same time, they will see what your typing immediately as you hit the keys, which frankly is initially quite disconcerting. As they type their name appears as a moving cursor, so you can see who is writing what.

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Each time you type in a new box it's known as a blip' and you can reply to this by hovering the cursor over the bottom line of the blip, which will bring up a reply arrow. Clicking this will create another blip immediately underneath.

There is a draft mode where you can type first and send when you're ready, as per most IM clients, but this is not yet enabled in the current preview. Edits can be made in real time and visible by everyone. However, you can also make a reply private to just one person.

Also not currently enabled, but on the way, is a green dot above your contacts that indicates whether your contact is live and logged in at that time.

However, your contact doesn't have to actually be live in the chat at all, so that when they log-in to Wave, they will see a message waiting for them. Unfortunately, there is no IM alerting systems at present, means that if you switch browser tabs and aren't looking directly at the Wave, there's no way of telling if someone has come in and added content.

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