Google Wave Spreading to More Users

Google (s goog) has apparently made enough progress with its pre-release Google Wave project that, starting today, the company is rolling out a preview version, although it’s only available to some users. Wave has been available for a small group of developers already, but now more than 100,000 invitations to try Wave in its newest incarnation will go out to active preview developers, the first users who signed up and offered to give feedback upon Wave’s announcement, and some customers of Google Apps.

Wave was first introduced in May, and caused many people to hail it as a next-generation, cutting-edge communications tool. It combines email, instant messaging, wiki features and more, into a splashy-looking unified stream of messages, images and thoughts, as seen in the screenshot here. There is also a video of Wave in action available here. Google has served up some interesting examples of how Wave might be used, and although I choose to reserve some skepticism about it, it is without a doubt attracting interest.

Upon Wave’s announcement in May, Jordan over at GigaOM questioned whether it will really be “what email would be if it were invented today,” as the project’s development team refers to it. Most attempts that I’ve seen over the years at “universal inboxes,” incorporating streams of messages and media from multiple sources, haven’t been as useful as their creators thought they would be.

But there are some interesting potential applications. Here, journalist Andy Ihnatko imagines using Wave in conjunction with his column editor for a new spin on speeding a piece of writing into published form. Filmmakers have also weighed in on how Wave might be used for collaboration purposes and co-editing. And ZDnet makes the case that enterprises may find novel uses for Wave.  When I’ve seen Wave in video demos, it’s looked to me like it might be useful for jazzing up and diversifying the way people comment on blog posts and online articles.

Wave’s developers concede that it is still a work in progress. Still, you may be one of the Google Apps users or people who expressed interest in Wave to get the preview version this week. It’s definitely an application to watch. If you’d like to learn more about Wave, check out the GigaOM Pro report “Google Wave Explained” (subscription required).

If you’ve received a Wave invitation, let us know what you think of the service in the comments.