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Google Wave Developer Preview at Google I/O 2009

By Shamus
on Saturday Jun 6, 2009
Filed under:


It takes them a long time to get to the point. You can scan through the first few minutes and not miss much, but once they begin showing what they’re doing in earnest it makes for an interesting show:

Link (YouTube)

It’s part threaded conversation, part email, part instant messaging, part collaborative document. Add a dash of wiki and the ability to step back through a document history. It’s ambitious, and it looks like it works.

The one thing I wanted to know – and the one thing that they never spoke of – was spam control. Email is actually a useful technology, but spam has taken a grievous toll on its utility and saddled the entire network with an endless torrent of noise. The reason for this is that the original system was designed in a world without spam. The ability for anyone, anywhere, to generate a message that looks like it came from anyone else, anywhere else, means you can hop onto the network anywhere and send anything to anyone at any time. It can be said that this system is perhaps not as secure as it could be.

Would a beautiful woman from Russia lie to you?
I’m sure they have considered spam – these people are certainly not idiots – I just wish they had talked a bit about it. The weakest spot of the system, as always, will be the end user. If I may belabor the point: “[…]the greatest threat to computer security is the fact that men want to look at boobs. There is no firewall system that can defend against the fact that one of the guys behind it won't unintentionally – but stupidly – compromise the system in his efforts to look at naked breasts. Despite what the movies show us, you don't take control of a remote computer by typing really fast, but you can do it by luring someone with false promises of hot female nudity.”

Getting spam into the network might be possible by exploiting the seams between the different federations. They’re cribbing from email, after all. But I’m sure in the end the Achilles’ heel of the system will be that it’s used by human beings. The system of extensions will probably be the most common vector of attack. Extensions will offer money, medicine, and pornography to the hapless and clueless, and will spam the system via their compromised accounts.

Still, only getting spammed by proxy from the easy targets in your contacts list is worlds better than getting spammed by anyone who can learn or guess your email. Its worth noting that they never showed any connection between a wave and email. You can do Wave+Twitter. Wave+blog. Wave+YouTube. Wave+webpages. But they didn’t demonstrate any interoperability between email and waves.

It will be interesting to see how this goes.

Comments (17)

  1. I’m incredibly interesting in seeing how this turns out, besides GMail and obviously search, many of Googles offerings haven’t seen an incredible amount of market penetration. So it will be interesting to see how Wave pans out.

  2. Lochiel says:

    ^^ what Blackhat said.

    They already have collaborative documents, but I hardly ever seen those get used. Just from what I’ve seen, Google Wave looks like a great way to do several things, assuming the users don’t see it as Email Plus. But I don’t believe the majority of people will be willing/able to make the paradigm shift to use it.

    But with that said; Damn that looks cool and I can’t wait!!!!:D

  3. Wave doesn’t interact with e-mail because they want Wave to eventually replace e-mail.

    I’d rather stick with e-mail instead of Wave, though. As you noted, they haven’t seemed to address the spam problem. And, one of my concerns, there is no consideration for end-to-end encryption (think PGP). That would have to be tacked on afterwords, and you see how well that has worked for e-mail.

    I think we can do a lot better than e-mail, but Wave isn’t it.

  4. SimpleScholar says:

    I think it looks cool, I really do. But I’m not sure exactly how useful it would be – for me, at least. The two problems I see with it are the fact that it’s probably much more useful for business people than, say, students like me, who tend to work on their own (by the way, I do use Google Docs for when I need to work on a file with someone else, and it’s very useful). As far as its potential as Twitter-Facebook-whatever killer goes (it’s basically replacing the need to go to all the different web-sites, letting you just sit in the Wave and interact with them from there, isn’t it?), I don’t see much incentive for the people behind those services to develop extensions for Google. And to make full use of all the coolness you have to have all of your friends using Google (which, again, is not the case with me, for example).

  5. Punning Pundit says:

    I can state from direct, first hand experience, that had google docs not existed, or not been colaberative, the Obama campaign would not have been nearly as efficent as it was. Inneficent enough to loose? Probably not– we had a lot of smart people building tools for us. But the fact that there were off the shelf tools already in common use made our jobs easier, and meant we could use person-hours in other areas…

  6. SeekerOfThePath says:

    I like the idea of what Wave could become and I’m really looking forward it going online; I’m definitely getting an account a.s.a.p..

    Sure, there are issues they haven’t addressed at the presentation (e.g. aforementioned spam control), but I don’t think that’d mean they didn’t think about them. Plus, as they’ve mentioned at the beginning of the presentation, it’s an “early developer preview” version, which means things, e.g. some advanced encryption, can still be implemented without much additional effort and room for many bugs.

    A thought on spam control: from what I’ve seen in the video, it seems to me that Wave works (in terms of one’s user list management) like the lot of IM clients out there. Take icq for example: you have a list of users (usually someone you know), who are allowed to send you messages. You can block out messages from users outside the list. Once you get spammed with requests about getting into the list, you move the user to ignore list (what I do 3 times a month; hugs’n’kisses to russian spammers ;) ). Wave could (and i.m.o. probably will) work in the same way.

    The only thing that really bothers me, is how Google plans to attract people to Wave. As I can tell from my personal experience, people don’t like switching to new (even if better) systems/applications – the only reason I have to maintain icq account if I want to keep in touch with some people.

  7. Johannes says:

    I didn’t view the entire clip (made it only to about 17 mins, with skipping some), but I’m really getting more and more interested in Google’s projects in general. Recently, I read about SketchUp!, and though I’m not really into 3D modeling (except maybe for the occasional L4D-level one could presumably produce using SU ;)), I liked the tool a lot. It’s easy to use, and they made a number of video tutorials which make it possible to very quickly get started.

    So I’m interested in this new Wave thing, yes. I had to smile when they said they’d open source it. Seems like a great way to get a user base. I mean, when it’s open sourced, it’s not really a product of just one (possibly monopolistic) company, right…? So when the change-fearing users won’t be switching soon, the more tech savvy might…

  8. Nymbo says:

    The firefly references better be in the final release.

  9. MuonDecay says:

    Admittedly, this may be because I’m a relatively unimportant person with limited contacts…

    but my gmail account averages 8 spam emails a month, all of which are sent to the appropriate spam folder. Spam is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

    Even my Yahoo! mail account only gets about 12-15 spam emails a month, and I’ve given that address out anywhere and everywhere. Again, all the ones that are received are correctly filed into the spam folder.

    Spam? What spam?

  10. Rick says:

    I like the Firefly references… both the ‘Wave’ product name, sending of a wave and the movie poll :D

    Nice touches.

  11. Kevin says:

    The obvious solution is for Google to offer better porn than everyone else, thus removing the temptation for guys to click away.

    Hey… I could apply that to nearly anything…

  12. Johannes says:

    @MuonDecay: I’m not sure, but my guess is that Google only puts the messages that fall into the ‘doubtful’ category of spam into your spam folder.

    I have one email address that receives some spam messages every now and then. Then, a long time there’s nothing. All of a sudden, I receive some spam once again, but this time it’s of a slightly different format (e.g. “V1agr@” instead of “V!agra”).

    There can be but one reason for this: my provider’s spam filters get updated with the new spam format info. I mean, the mail address is on the relaying end of an ‘info@’ address – an address absolutely sure to attract loads of spam.

    It’s still different than gmail, yes… But I’m curious about the experiences of people running their own mail servers.

    That said, GMail yields a relatively large numbers of false positives. For my mail, that is.

  13. SeekerOfThePath says:

    @Johannes: my personal experience with personal mail server is, that you can’t fight 1337. I updated my filters daily and around 10 mails daily kept getting through. In the end, I cancelled the address and moved completely to gmail, where I have yet to see spam get through or !spam get flagged.

    However, more interesting is our university e-mail spam filter. University mail address is “number@”, so it must be easy to just “guess” the addresses of student and staff accounts and send spam, but I haven’t seen spam in two years I’m here; although e-mails sometimes get delayed few hours, worst case I’ve seen was a day. The filters work something like this: all incoming traffic from outside the LAN is delayed some time (I think it’s half hour), once the mail server detects lots of traffic coming from one place, it bans that place for some time. Plus I guess they use standard phrase-matching filters, too.

    What I’m trying to say is, fighting spam is possible and not that difficult if you have resources you can dedicate.

  14. Rick says:

    Shamus: Its worth noting that they never showed any connection between a wave and email. You can do Wave+Twitter. Wave+blog. Wave+YouTube. Wave+webpages. But they didn't demonstrate any interoperability between email and waves.

    @shamus, I think that’s because as far as they’re concerned, Waves are the new email.

    It looks like it treats each instance of the setup (eg a companies account) as a mail server and most of what they showed was working within the one company. But via Acme and Inetcorp (or whatever it was) you can also message other companies.

    My impression was that (at least for a start) it’s intended to connect you to co-workers/friends/etc in the same ‘group’ as you… not to your clients.

    The words don’t really match up with my thoughts, but it’s the best I could conjure.

  15. Rob says:

    Pretty neat. It actually reminds me of AOL in the 90’s. Email/Instant messaging/chat rooms all in one place!
    I imagine a lot of people would dismiss it as just another social networking tool, unless the tech savvy really take to it and do something wonderful with it that brings the masses.
    Also robot AI monitoring all my messages tickles every paranoid bone in my body. Skynet as social networking.

  16. Johannes says:

    @SeekerOfThePath: Funny, my university had email accounts just like in your situation. There was one issue though: they actually did NOT have a filter! Oddly enough, it took several years before spam really came flooding in. But when the inevitable did happen, I ultimately had to scan through several pages of spam each day. Needless to say, I used that account only when absolutely necessary.

    However, this was at least four years ago. It’s entirely possible they’ve installed some filter type of thing in the mean time. Not that this university is known for it being well organized though…

  17. SireCh says:


    I get about 20 a day, and I almost never sign up for websites with that address. And I always check for false positives in the spam folder, since this time were an email for a job interview got wrongly marked…

    but I’m a big supporter of gmail. I’ve been there since almost day one, and it beats everything that I’ve tried. In fact, I really love many Google products (calendar, reader, maps, … ). In fact, maybe there are TOO many good apps. If you also use chrome, gdesktop, or this new latitude it feels like all your data is in the hands of google.

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