Google is planning to launch what it calls "the e-mail of the future" later this year.
Called Google Wave, it will mesh elements of e-mail, instant messaging, wikis and photo-sharing to help simplify online communication.
The company gave a demonstration of Wave Thursday at its annual Google I/O conference for software developers in San Francisco. It will be available for free and, like the current Google Mail, show up in web browsers.
Aimed at helping consumers organize their various communication tools, users will be able to send direct messages to online contacts, share documents and photos and choose which members of a conversation they want to include or exclude in their discussions.
It will also provide for more cross-platforming. For example, users will be able to instant message a response to an email by highlighting and clicking on a certain portion of the message.
It will also keep a log of internet discussions, organized in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, a la Twitter and Facebook. Google said it envsions developers figuring out a way to use Wave as a forum for conversations launched on other social networking sites like Facebook, blogs and news sites.
To form a new "wave," a user can upload photos, add contacts or type a message. That user can add contacts to the wave at a later point, and those they invite can add their own contacts.
It’s an attempt to "combine conversation-type communication and collaboration-type communication," said the brainchildren behind Wave – Lars Rasmussen, a Google engineering manager who with his brother Jens helped build Google’s online mapping service.
The Rasmussens unveiled the project at the conference in the hopes of allowing developers the advance time to fool around with the application before it’s made available publicly.
The Rassumens were told to create "one of the most autonomous independent groups we’ve had at Google," co-founder Sergey Brin said in a press conference Thursday. Because they had succeeded with Google Maps, Brin gave them "the benefit of the doubt" with Wave.