We’ve been using Basecamp to collaborate on our team for the past year, and one of the things that it highlights is how incredibly poor an experience email provides. A typical email thread (say 10 replies) can encompass a number of people who are cc’d in (or dropped) from any single message, making retrospective auditing of a decision very, very complex. (In fact it’s impossible if you weren’t on the critical email in the chain.)
Having got used to Basecamp, we now use its Messages function in preference to email precisely because it provides a single conversational thread where anyone can see the decisions being made in chronological order, irrespective of when they joined.
One of the features of Basecamp we haven’t really got comfortable with is the Chat feature, which is functionally equivalent to the Messages, but in ‘real’ time – i.e. it’s a better IM, where Messages are a better email.
Google Wave seems like a better Chat and a better Messages function, combined in one. I have no idea if it’s a ‘killer app’, and some of the initial press has suggested it’s just too ambitious, too complicated for non-technical users, but I for one applaud Google’s ambition in at least addressing the problem. Email is well past it’s sell-by-date, I think that for tech-savvy power users Wave (or an equivalent) could become a de facto communication medium.