Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How Do You Kill Email? Just Wave...

What is extremely difficult to describe, ethereal, innovative and on your doorstep? Well according to Lars and Jens Rasmussen the answer is Google Wave, the new product from google that is going to "kill email as we know it." The Danish brothers are the creators of what we know today as Google Maps. After their first huge success they set out to do something even more remarkable, and from the sounds of this story I think they may be on the right track.

In theory, the idea for Wave is simple. It's e-mail updated for the Internet age, Jens says.

E-mail as we know it is based on the snail-mail format: you send a message; your friend receives it. Wave makes mail collaborative and instant. When you type a message to a friend, he or she sees what you're typing as you type it. You can jump in and start drafting a reply before the initial message is complete. Wave also lets users collaborate on editable documents, called Wikis, share photos, update blogs, set appointments and chat in big groups. You can add conference calls to a Wave. A translation function called Rosy will translate chat messages between languages as you write.

Pretty cool and crazy stuff. Not too far away from computers being holograms displayed in mid air that operate on brain wave frequencies right? Seriously though I feel like this is a turning point in my life. Up until now I have grown up with most technologies or at least unaware of their impact on the world. Some are pretty cool and impressive. Mass cell phone usage has been pretty sweet. Obviously the Internet is a beauty. But this journey towards new ways of communication is the first time in my life that I have been aware of an innovation of this magnitude (cue all the examples I am overlooking in the comments section) that will affect the way people across the world communicate. I want to make sure that with things like this I stay current and quasi knowledgeable so that I don’t end up like many people today who can’t even use a computer. I feel like once you start to get behind, catching up is extremely difficult.

Regardless of whether you are into this kind of stuff the story of these two brothers is pretty impressive. They have an awesome theory of how they are going to maintain that start up style hunger to achieve that they had with what eventually became Google Maps. Now that they work for Google they were paranoid that their changed surroundings and life situations would limit their ability to create another successful innovation.

When the dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000s, the Rasmussen brothers were laid off within weeks of each other, both from a company called Digital Fountain.

There were virtually no jobs to look for in technology. So the brothers cashed in one of their pensions, sapped bank accounts and put their lives on the line to chase a kooky idea Jens had about map-making on the Internet.

Without the risk and the pressure, they wouldn't have been able to do it, the brothers said.

"I do believe that you can achieve more if you're willing to take risks," Lars said in a recent phone interview. "There's almost a total correlation between the amount of risk you're willing to take and then the amount of stuff you then potentially can get done."

The Rasmussen brothers have done their best to recreate the high-stakes situation that produced Google Maps.
They wanted to make a stress incubator, to start a fire under their team that would propel its creativity to new heights.
This was their formula:

• Google Wave would operate as a start-up company within the corporate giant of Google.

• The 60-person Wave team would be based in Sydney, Australia, far away from Google's corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California.

• Google employees who wanted to work on Wave would have to take a risk to join the brothers, a diluted version of what the Rasmussen's faced when they started Google Maps. The team took cuts to their bonus pay, with the hopes of a big payout if Wave were to succeed.

• And their project would be secret. The rest of Google's project files, codes and other documents are accessible to anyone in the company. Not Wave's.

The Rasmussen's felt good about their recipe for success through risk-taking. But it also made them more nervous. Along the way, they found another form of motivation: the fear of failure.

Their journey is pretty inspiring and the product, if it can live up to the concept, will be pretty incredible as well. Definitely worth the read. You can check out the full article here. Or if you really have time you can check out the official website with an intense full length video of the actual demonstration delivered by the brothers here.

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