Google Wave Revisited: Docs Gets Real-Time Conversations

Google Docs real time comments

Photo: Google

Google hasn’t given up on real-time collaboration, despite the failure of its Wave product last year.Google Docs users can now have real-time discussions from within a document, and bring new users into the conversation by sending them emails.

Comments in Google Docs appear on the right-hand pane of the document. Today’s update adds:

  • Timestamps and names so you know exactly who’s commenting.
  • Email integration. For instance, typing @[email protected] sends and email to Bob with your comment. His response is automatically displayed in the comment stream. Users can turn email notifications off for any particular document.
  • Users can “resolve” comment streams when the conversation is over, so they’ll disappear from the document.

The end effect is a lot like using instant messaging from directly within the document.

Depending how you work, this could either be a huge boost to efficiency or a total nightmare — imagine fifteen people yelling about a document at the same time. But Google has been using it internally for several months now and claims that it’s helped teams collaborate. 

The feature is available only in new Google Docs documents today — you can’t backfit it to existing documents. It will be available in other Google Apps in the future.

More details are available on the Google Docs blog. Google also created this pretty funny video that shows what a real-time comment stream looks like — it features a random employee asking the CEO for the keys to the corporate jet so they can play a prank on a fellow employee.

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