Google Wave is Coming, (ETA 'later this year') and it appears it could be 'game changing.'
Google has come up with many useful applications: Google Maps, Google Books, Google News to name three of them. They have all added to the overall internet experience. However, the designers behind Google Wave (the same programming team that designed Google Maps, incidentally) have come up with something that approaches revolutionary upheaval. I say this because they have taken the one part of the internet experience that predates the internet by over a decade, the one thing everyone is used to and has remained basically the same since the 1970s, and reconfigured it from scratch. E-mail.
Google Wave is open source - meaning Google is encouraging other companies to create their own Waves, so there will be user choice. You will be able to choose from Google Wave, Yahoo Wave, Acme Wave, etc, and they will all interact like email.
There is an hour and twenty minute demo available along with a 10-minute abridged version.
[What follows is my own interpretation of what I saw on the Demo]
Google Wave combines aspects of email, mailing lists, social networks, blogging, and wikis. At its most simple, it can be used exactly like an email-client. One person sends a message to another, and they respond, and then person A responds back. Instead of the email-client putting these messages together in a 'thread' like Gmail and other clients now do, they will appear in a series on one document - the Wave.
So instead of an inbox of email messages, you will have an inbox of several Waves. These waves may be an ongoing conversation between two or more friends/relatives/coworkers that lasts years, or a very short-lived conversation. Not much more than a change in nomenclature, but the revolution is in what can be done with the waves.
From the demo it appears only those in the Wave can add participants to the Wave. There will have to be a way to find the "wave addresses" of friends, coworkers, etc - like in Social Networks - though it may be difficult for strangers to send waves to you, unless you 'approve them'. Some have suggested this could mark the end of spam. It might also complicate legitimate electronic advertisement for companies -- for if all your friends, kin, and colleagues are communicating via Wave - and the only thing hitting your email box is 'junk mail', you're going to stop opening your email box. You will end up 'approving' your bank, cable company, etc for the 'important stuff', but the unsolicited mail will be stopped at the door. (You'll likely get an endless series of 'requests' to approve senders, but I am sure you will be able to go through the list, click yes on the 1 or 2 legitimate requests, and mass-delete the rest.)
You can do a lot more with a Wave than with a traditional email. First off, all participants can edit the wave document simultaneously, anywhere in the document, and the wave keeps track of who makes which edits. This will be useful for collaborative documents in a corporate environment.
You can drag and drop photos or videos into the document. A great way for family members to share photos from a trip.
There is also the option of copying an entire wave (or part of a wave) and pasting it onto your blog with a click of the button. It doesn't just copy the text - it copies the wave itself. In that a visitor to the blog can reply on the wave, and the reply will appear in the Wave-Client of all participants. And when more is added to the wave, it will automatically appear on the blog. The blog - and all its readers - have become a participant in the Wave.
This - appears - to reintroduce the threat of spam. It's not clear if *any* visitor to the blog will be able to interact with the Wave. I suspect that will be a modifiable setting.
Google wants companies to create applications/gadgets that will fuse with Waves. One Genealogical possibility I foresee is some company coming up with a way for participants on a wave to group-edit a family tree.
I suspect at some point in the future the monthly Geneablogger Scanfests will be held on a Wave.
And while it may take a few years - as there will be some resistant to change - I wholly suspect the grave for e-mail has just been dug. As someone who was sending email back in 1987, I have some fond memories, but the poor guy is ancient in technological years. It's time.