Google is uniting instant messaging, e-mail and document collaboration into a new service with the audacious goal of changing how people communicate online.
The service, called Wave, will erode the distinction between the various ways people keep in touch on the Web and eliminate the need to use multiple tools to do so, the company said.
Wave's users invite others to join their "wave" about a particular topic so they can follow the thread of messages, much like a bulletin board. Everyone on the list can see individual messages as they're being typed, letter by letter, like instant messaging taken to the extreme, to speed up the conversation.
There's an option to turn off the real-time feature, which will no doubt be handy for people who often revise what they write before hitting send.
Users can drag and drop photos and maps onto the waves to make them immediately visible to others. They can also edit documents together, potentially appealing to workers who are collaborating on a project and who would otherwise use wikis.
Wave is designed for use by both consumers, for communicating with family and friends, and businesses.