One of the coolest features of Web-based productivity applications is that they enable people to easily collaborate on documents. Some, like Google's word processor Writely, and its spreadsheet application Google Spreadsheets, even let multiple people edit the same document at the same time. It's a great feature, but as I said in a previous post, it can get confusing really fast when more than one person is editing a document and each user has no idea who's where in the document and who's doing what to it. It is disconcerting, to say the least, to see a word or a number magically change when you're doing edits right next to it.
At the Supernova 2006 conference, I got a brief demo of an early project, SynchroEdit. It's an online word processor that puts each user's changes in their own color. This makes a world of difference, and it helps keep you oriented to who is doing what. With this tool, you know who to yell at if you see a change you don't like. It would be very entertaining to see this technology applied to some of the more controversial and heavily edited pages of Wikipedia.
Christopher Allen, who showed me SynchroEdit, was very clear with me that this is alpha software. It's not ready for prime time. It may or may not become a product for you and me to rely on. So, clearly, I can't recommend that anybody adopt this product today for anything critical, but I am happy to report that the state of the art in collaborative editing is moving forward.