Margaret Lyons
July 22, 2009 AT 09:00 PM EDT

Hot on the heels of its Chrome browser announcement, Google is yet again expanding its online reach, this time in the form of an e-mail, IM, content-sharing, collaborative environment they’ve dubbed Wave. It’s a lot of…well, everything, but its still in its incubation phase. Google demoed Wave for developers (the actual demo starts around 7:43) in the hopes that they would start building add-on apps and tinkering with Wave’s current structure, much in the way people wrote home-grown add-ons for Google Maps. The developers indeed went to town at a hackathon this week.

The gist of Wave, according to the people who wove it out of cotton candy dreams, is “what might e-mail look like if it was invented today?” The biggest change is that the content of the e-mail would be less static — Wave users can respond to just chunks of the message, switch between e-mailing and IMing about it, invite other people into the conversation at any point, etc.You can follow the project’s progress on Google’s blog about it, and you can sign up for a beta invite (due in September) here.

I’m intrigued, naturally, but I’m also not sure how broken my current e-mail and IM options really are. Other than reliable drag-and-drop file-sharing, I don’t have a consistent “why can’t I do this?!” function. What do you think, PopWatchers? Does this look like the Wave of the future?

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