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E-mail: It’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s simple, it’s…outdated?

Zenbe, promoter of enlightenment and inner-peace via e-mail overload solutions, operates under this belief. Their newest offering is called Shareflow, and is described as an answer to the question: What if we could create a separate conversation, invite a specific audience to that conversation, and make it accessible on the Internet?

Basically, it’s a real-time collaboration service that combines e-mail, instant messaging and social networking. Sound familiar? Probably.
 

It Starts with a Flow

Say you're at work and your co-worker e-mails you about a project that involves you and a handful of other people. It's a juicy e-mail full of innovative and eloquently articulated ideas, and it's apparent that the rest of the team would greatly benefit from reading it. In order to spread the word, you, the smart one, then create what is called a "Flow."

Zenbe encourages users to think of a Flow as a folder for any and all chit-chat or documents related to the Flow's assigned topic. Each Flow comes with its own e-mail address, so, in our hypothetical situation where you're the smart one (don't worry, you probably are in real life too) you forward the juicy e-mail from your co-worker to the Flow and bam, there's your conversation starter. The next step is to invite everyone else from your team to join the Flow and watch as they start chatting real-time about the genius ideas contained in the original e-mail.

And so begins the flow of conversation: Co-worker 1 uploads a related image, co-worker 2 plugs in some documents she thinks might help and co-worker 3, the guy who faffed away his entire afternoon and didn't join the Flow until much later, re-reads the whole thing as it played out and chimes in with a blurb or two wherever he feels compelled to.

No more outdated e-mail threads, no more hitting 'Reply All' by accident, the subsequent embarrassment, and no more sifting through instant messaging archives for that morsel of related information mentioned between you and a teammate 3 weeks ago. It's all in the Flow.

For you visual kids: 

Yeah, We Know

It's a Google Wave doppelgänger.

Yeah, we said it, and we'll say it again because there's just no getting around it; the tools are way too similar.

Team Shareflow admits to lacking in some innovative features offered by Wave, like open protocol, federation, and Operational Transformation data sync.

But on defense, a Shareflow developer writes: "Shareflow was conceived of without any knowledge that Google was working on Wave and developed with limited resources on a tight timeline. When we kicked off the project earlier this year, we discussed our ideal vision for Shareflow which looked a lot like wave; however, as a small team focused on becoming profitable, we decided to focus on getting a product out there for people to use first."

With that, the key differences are as follows:

  1. Shareflow is closed source and commercial (though Zenbe offers a basic version for free), while Google Wave is totally free and predominantly open source
  2. By providing an e-mail address for each Flow, Shareflow integrates pre-existing e-mail records and provides a convenient inlet for conversation. As far as we know, Google Wave aims to redefine e-mail, not include the system we currently have
  3. Shareflow is available right now, right now. Google has shared Wave with thousands of developers, but won't be releasing the tool to the chosen 100,000 lowly regular user people until September 30th

The Movement

In waves, in flows, in whatever--it's happening. It reminds us of an old quote from Neil Pearlstein, president of PC Professional, an Oakand based Microsoft Gold Partner: "I don't think Google Wave is an immediate threat to SharePoint, but the race is on, and both Google and Microsoft are going to be pushing each other to create innovative products."

Google, Microsoft, and now apparently the rest of the Web.

There's no telling who truly came up with the idea for the e-mail, instant messaging, collaboration explosion first, but it's definitely taking hold. Zenbe proves they're rolling right along with it: "...we are looking forward to the possibilities that Wave opens," said another Shareflow developer. "A company of Google's size has the ability to push paradigm shifting innovations and new standards. As people become used to new forms of communication and collaboration, I believe there will be more opportunity for products like Shareflow. The fact that Google is making Wave an open system means there will hopefully be an ecosystem of products communicating on this emerging standard. As a company focused on innovating in personal and group communication, we're following it closely.

So are we. And so should you. Thankfully, you don't have to wait for the great wave to come sweeping in. Start familiarizing yourself with the future right now by checking out Shareflow's pricing plans here. Take any of them a spin for 60 days, free of charge with the promo code CMSWIRE.