The general agreement is that mail is broken. We all use it but kind of hate it too. Well, it seems that Google came up with a very good alternative (ambitious, and technically impressive): .
A long video of Wave’s capabilities .
It’s very long at 1:20hrs, but worth it. It’s peppered with random bouts of applause, something I’ve never seen in a scientific/technical presentation before. About minute 1:04, Lars Rasmussen presents real-time translation and he gets about a minute of standing ovation.
Why is this important for academics? Looks like sending a word document back and forth with version numbers in the file name is no fun. And setting a VCS with a bunch of .tex files plus figures is not much better (mainly because doing diffs on LaTeX files is pretty horrible). One could always convince a collaborator to use Google Docs, but then you have no way to use a proper reference manager, figures are a mess, etc. In short, scientific paper collaboration is not really pleasant right now.