Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wave is Better on the iPhone

The more I play with Google Wave, the less I like the user interface. In contrast, the more I learn about the Wave technology stack, the less I care about the user interface, because it's clear to me that the important innovations are underneath the skin. That became very clear to me when I got on the train on Friday morning and decided to see whether Wave worked on the iPhone. I've decided that wave is better on the iPhone than it is in a full screen browser.

On a full screen browser, Wave takes up 3 columns. When you get to try Wave, the first thing you should do is get rid of the leftmost column. This gives the rest of Wave a bit of room to breathe. On the iPhone, by contrast, you get only one column of content per screen. The result is much, much easier to digest. You don't have waves yipping at you while you read another wave.

The iPhone version on Wave is implemented as a web app running inside Safari. Inexplicably, when you log in, there's a message that says that the iPhone browser is not fully supported. This is inexplicable for 2 reasons.
  1. The iPhone implementation is quite a bit more mature than the Firefox 3.5 implementation I run on my laptop.
  2. The main bug in the iPhone implementation is that the screen telling you the iphone browser is not fully supported breaks links into Wave.
I would expect to see a iPhone native Wave app very soon.

I think most people running Wave will eventually choose to run Wave in native applications that talk the Wave protocol, just as most people (i.e. me) use native email clients to do their email. I just hope that Google's choice to launch Wave inside browsers is not just a plan to establish Chrome as a new web operating system. Twitter owes its success in no small part to the ecosystem of client applications that have sprung up around it. Although I use the Nambu client myself; I'm sure that many satisfied Tweetdeck users would be unhappy if the only way they could use Twitter was through Nambu.

I've read the assertion that Google Wave is the Segway of email, but I think that's wrong. The better analogy is the videophone. Although it's often thought that AT&T's videophone failed because there was no one to call, that's only half of the story. The reason that there was no one to call was that the videophone didn't fit into any social practice- no one really want to have people popping up on little screens in their living rooms.

I'm betting that Wave will turn out to be more popular than the Picturephone, but the real turning point will be third-party clients.

This article is also posted inside Wave.


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