I've been using Google Wave for a few days now, so I thought I'd share my initial impressions.
It seems like there are a lot of others who think Google Wave is overhyped and unimpressive. I'd say most of that comes from failure to understand Google's intent here. Google never promised a finished product at this stage. In fact, they promised the opposite. They wanted early feedback. Preview users are there to find bugs, and there are plenty of them to be found.
It's slow. The Google Wave team knows this. Part of it is that preview users find unexpected ways to break the system, such as typing in 100,000 character words. Google has also been inviting users until the servers slow down, fixing the problems, then inviting more users. Eventually they're going to have to expand to include anyone who wants an account, so better to learn how to grow now than later.
Everyone can see you type. This is annoying for large public waves, but it's clearly not going to look like this once Google Wave hits beta status. There's a grayed out "draft" check box every time you edit a message or write a blip that would probably let you make typing errors in peace. Meanwhile, if you're chatting with someone one on one, you probably do want to see messages in near real time rather than waiting forever to see a long paragraph.
You can't manage wave participants. This is a feature that hasn't been enabled yet. You can't remove participants or yourself from a wave, which means that if you so much as look at a wave, it's hanging around in your inbox to taunt you. You can "mute" those waves, but that's not as helpful as removing them.
There's no established etiquette for wave participation. Sometimes people edit a bilp. Sometimes they add a blip of their own, and sometimes they ad a blip within a blip. Do you add items to the beginning of a wave or the end? It gets difficult to tell who contributed what. We developed ad hoc rules to deal with all sorts of Internet communication. I'm sure the same thing will happen here.
It isn't the latest, greatest, biggest best social networking tool ever. Google never promised this was the next public social networking sensation. They were aiming for this as a new email. Something to collaborate with small groups. When the features are rounded out and the stability issues are addressed, this will seem a lot more realistic.
Is it bad publicity for Google to open up a preview on a slow server and with so many features missing? Perhaps. Their other previews have been smaller. Perhaps their biggest mistake was pre-announcing it. Chrome OS will likely face similar problems if they decide to let users preview it.
Google Wave isn't ready for prime time. If you want to really start using it, wait for the beta release. If, on the other hand, you like finding bugs and giving feedback, sign up on the waiting list.
Google Wave glossary: