As you may know I was quite keen on the ideas and potential of Google's Wave project and like many thought it a bit of a shame when they closed the project. When the creator of Wave Lars Rasmussen left Google for Facbook, Wave seemed finished before it had started. At the time they pulled the plug Google said the project would live on but details were scratchy. Now we know more and the good news is that in yet another kudos point for free software and the development models around it, Wave will rise again and this time maybe even stronger but certainly with greater freedom.
We can rebuild it, we have the technology
If you didn't already know the team behind Wave announced in September that they will fork the project into an independent free software product. This "Wave in a box" will include (quoted from the announcement)
- an application bundle including a server and web client supporting real-time collaboration using the same structured conversations as the Google Wave system
- a fast and fully-featured wave panel in the web client with complete support for threaded conversations
- a persistent wave store and search implementation for the server (building on contributed patches to implement a MongoDB store)
- refinements to the client-server protocols
- gadget, robot and data API support
- support for importing wave data from wave.google.com
- the ability to federate across other Wave in a Box instances, with some additional configuration
Of those the first one seems to be the key one and within that a single word stands out: server. One of the original criticisms of Wave was that only the protocol was shared. The server technology was kept closed (or at least semi-closed which is tant-amount to the same thing) behind Google's glass doors. Now it looks like a key part of making this a useful project is being released into the wild as well. I should mention that the same announcement gives the caveat that
This project will not have the full functionality of Google Wave as you know it today. However, we intend to give developers and enterprising users an opportunity to run wave servers and host waves on their own hardware.
We'll be able to run our own Wave servers on our own hardware
So it will be Wave but not as we know it. That statement gives a lot of room for scope but still it's a start. The keen eyed among you will have noticed the final sentence which is, in my opinion, another key plus point. We'll be able to run our own Wave servers on our own hardware. This is very important to those who for various reasons prefer not to (or are required) keep data off third party servers such a Google's. Given the growing concern over the power we are giving Google and any associated criticisms the fact they have been prepared to release Wave back to us is something we should give them credit for.
The next big step
Another interesting twist to this tale is that Wave will rise from the ashes but not rise under Google's tutorage. When Google said they were letting go, they really meant it. Step forward the Apache foundation who have recently (25 November) accepted the forked Wave as an Apache project. best known for the ubiquituous httpd server, Apache also host and parent many other free software projects. SpamAssassin and Tomcat would probably be the most well known of those and now it seems we'll be able to add Wave to the list. It's early days at Apache yet and the project hasn't been fully accepted, it's in the incubator phase which enables the Apache Foundation to inspect the fine print before full acceptance. As others have said becoming an Apache project can only broaden the scope, contributions and horizons of Wave.
Wave will rise from the ashes but not rise under Google's tutorage
So once again I am excited about Wave. It's potential to be used with collaborative works -- be they software, art or something else -- can once again be realised. This time it's even more up to us though and whilst the pickup from the average web-user may be lower the stability and rigidity of the project will be more assured. Assuming it's accepted into Apache Software Foundation of course.