In 1993, I had no idea what an email address was. Two years later, I couldn't live without it. Then Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) came along with that newfangled Gmail service, which fundamentally changed how I use email. And now, Google wants to overthrow the whole email hegemony and replace it with something entirely new. That's just how a true Rule Breaker rolls.

Say hello to Google Wave -- the email killer.

What is this all about?
Developed by a team of 50 engineers in Sydney, Australia, Wave was just presented at the annual Google I/O conference last week. The cheering crowds of journalists, engineers, and tech enthusiasts may have been a bit biased in Google's favor, since all 4,000 of them had received shiny new HTC G2 phones just for attending. But that doesn't take away from the inventive and forward-looking design of the Wave platform.

In this first incarnation, Wave rolls together the functions of email, instant messaging, and document-sharing into organic conversations between two or more people. It's "collaboration and communication" on a grand scale. Google hopes to create a platform, rather than just a service, by open-sourcing Wave. Google will open the Wave's programming interface in the hopes that others will expand on what Google has started.

The industry ramifications
Removing the barriers between immediate instant messaging, persistent and trackable emails, and social document-sharing services like Facebook and Twitter creates a completely new way of looking at online communications. The open aspect of the whole thing is the most exciting part, because that gives Wave a real chance of supplanting the older communication methods. Open standards lead to open development and worldwide innovation, which is both cheaper for Google and better for the technology itself.

And I bet that Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Juniper Networks (NASDAQ:JNPR) are quietly cheering this project on, because Wave promotes richer communications with more video sharing and higher bandwidth footprints.

More traffic is always good news for the networking guys, and this sort of multimedia-rich communication protocol would definitely contribute to that. That's a win for the networking guys, for Google and its ubiquitous ad platforms, and for upstarts with a great idea that doesn't quite fit in the Facebook or Twitter paradigms. One invention, plenty of winners.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Wave clients from all the usual suspects in the online communications game. That would include Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), or even eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) via its Skype connection. It's a free-for-all gold rush where anyone can stake a claim and hope to become the de facto standard.

Hey Dad, what's "email"?
I can't wait to get my hands on this bad boy and put it through its paces. My kids might end up asking me what "email", "instant messaging", "SMS", and "Twitter" were, back in the day before Wave mashed it all up into a single service. And then we'll move on to pet rocks and the Macarena.

It's a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) indeed, but if anyone can do it, Google can.

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