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Google embraces Wave's permission chaos

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Enterprise 2.0 Google is embracing complete user-access anarchy in its new-age collaboration tool, Google Wave, so that early testers won't be tempted to fall into their old emailing habits.

A puzzling attribute of Google's new open-communication sandbox is the complete lack of permissions. As it stands today, if a person is invited to a Wave session they have full editing privileges on absolutely everything. And with Google intending Wave to become a serious collaboration tool for businesses, there's clearly some potentially disastrous situations ahead if an army of underlings can simultaneously fiddle with something like a quarterly report or grant application without permission.

Speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference today in San Francisco, Google Wave's product manager Gregory D'Alesandre explained that leaving out access controls is part of Google's agenda to wean users and developers away from restricted email environments.

"We really buy into the concept of collaboration - and collaboration in all things," said D'Alesandre. "Eventually we'll get to the point where we have some permissions where you have read-only people. But when we started, we realized if you put all those permissions in place, everyone would immediately lock down everything because that's what we're accustomed to."

So his team instead chose to blow open the barn door completely. Although Google Wave does provide a session recorder so users can discover who edited what and when, there's nothing to prevent items from being modified in the first place. Admitting that even employees inside Google had difficulties at first getting used to editing each other's messages with abandon, D'Alesandre said therein lies the company's vision of replacing traditional email with free-sharing Wave.

"We realized if we put all these sorts of classic permissions into place so people could lock it down and make it feel like email - they would lock it down and make it feel like email," he said.

Novell and SAP have already sipped the commune-ication Kool-Aide in Google Wave.

SAP swung by during the presentation to show off its Gravity application for Wave which allows users to collaborate on creating and modeling business processes.

Next came Novell to show how it's working to plug its new real-time document collaboration platform, Novell Pulse, into Google Wave.

Novell says Pulse combines email, document authoring, and social messaging into a single platform - and if you think that sounds exactly like Wave itself, you aren't alone. In fact, it was hard to tell where Wave stopped and Pulse began in the demonstration.

And while Novell said Pulse will feature robust security and management capabilities, the demo showed several people editing each other's instant messages as easily as they pleased. Evidently, they're jockeying against the order inherent in email too. ®

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