Now the latter is the exciting aspect of it. Instead of “isolated islands”, Google allows you to run your own social networking software — and link it together with all other Wave servers. All this thanks to the Google Wave Federation Protocol — and yes, you’ve guessed right, of course it’s XMPP underneath. An “account” on Google Wave is just an email, and since emails are guaranteed to be unique world-wide, and the default “identity” on XMPP anyway, this simply means that you can make sure that your email is the only thing you need to use on any Wave-compatible social networking tool. Register once — no matter where you got your email address! — and you can use it to join all “GWFP”-compatible social networking sites. And yes, the GWFP extension to XMPP is published, open, and due to be reviewed as an Internet Protocol “soon”.
You also don’t need to develop a full Facebook clone to participate on the federation. Imagine that you wish to create just a new Twitter clone. You just implement on the framework the things you actually wish to implement. Nevertheless, once you join the Wave federation, your users can share content across it easily and transparently. Likewise, if your business is just allowing people to make phone calls, you could simply set that up and join the federation — enabling all Wave users (not only the ones registered with you) to make VoIP calls through your service. As a bonus, if someone does not wish to install a XMPP-based VoIP client app on their computers, they will still be able to do text chat. Or send files. Or share videos. Or feed their microblogging stream.
This, I believe, is social networking done right. Instead of “forcing” people to jump to the latest and greatest social networking site and go “aaah” and “oooh” (while losing all their contacts on the previously greatest social networking site, as well as all content), you just give people freedom of choice on where they register (depending, of course, on the level of “coolness” and “features” and already existing friends on that particular service), but they will all be in touch — without needing to sign up on your service. So if you like microblogging but have no patience for getting vampire-bitten, you could simply register to a Wave-enabled site that only implements micoblogging. Your vampire friends will still be able to see you online, send you messages, share things with you — even though, well, they won’t be inviting you to get bitten. Similarly, if all you do is talk on the VoIP phone with your beloved one, and care little for anything else, your text-loving friends can still see you’re online and send you a text message. Or share a video.
So, just like we all have our “favourite browser” or “favourite email application” — but can fully navigate to any of the 6 billion+ Web pages on the net, or send email to any of the 2 billion email addresses out there — you will also be able to have your “favourite social networking site”, but still keep in touch with all your friends, no matter where they’re registered with.
This is a powerful breakthrough. This is disruptive. This will definitely be the way the future will look like — the paradigm will be shifting, as social networking service providers focus less on stealing customers from each other (while the industry watches the popularity rise and drop, sites popping up, burning venture capital, and silently and quietly disappear), but on providing better service (more features, an easier setup, a nicer look, whatever), while making sure that everybody will still be in touch and never lose content any more.
I call that the Web 2.1. It’s definitely a reasonably large step in the way we look at social networking sites today. And the big question is, will anyone besides Facebook (which is a Microsoft company) be able to ignore a federation that will congregate all other social networking sites under a single communications protocol?