Google Wave winds down

One of the most hyped of recent Google projects had ceased development as stand-alone product. Basically Wave is getting dismantled into usable chunks for use elsewhere and ambition of redefining online communication is dead.

What went wrong with it? Did anything actually go wrong or was it doomed from the start?

Initial goals

Wave aimed to be communication platform that is:

  • modern;
  • powerful;
  • universal;
  • drop-in replacement for current methods of online communications.

In practice Wave turned out to be hybrid of multiple communication models (IM, chat, email, forum, wiki and more).

Question was – does Google have enough juice to bring it all the way from concept to established and widely adopted product.

Invites

Early access to Wave was regulated with invites. Distributed by Google at first and by users later. Invites greatly contributed to the initial hype and probably gave developers good control over how much infrastructure handles at any given moment.

On other hand tightly controlled growth of user base is opposite of explosive growth. Growth that Wave needed so very much.

“beta than nothing”

We are used to jokes about Google products in beta for years. Wave wasn’t even at beta stage by neither Google or generic definition.

Service suffered from massive performance, stability and usability issues. Nothing uncommon for early development stages. However for such high profile service most users most probably weren’t in for dealing with bugs. They were in for hype and promises.

Checkpoints

Quoting myself from my post on Wave back then, it should have hit two checkpoints to have viable future:

  • integration into existing communication chains;
  • global adoption.

Wave managed to utterly fail both. Integration with existing tool was at best hinted. Adoption didn’t go well at all and is cited as main reason for project to be closed.

Switch tax

As for me Wave was too self-focused and too Google-focused.

  • very shiny toy, but not even closely a viable replacement for established communication chains;
  • trying to be open standard, but so closely associated with Google that very few companies seemed eager to participate, choosing safer path of sitting it out.

Wave forgot important part necessities of adoption – improving experience for the reasonable cost of re-education and migration without issues.

Experience gain was questionable at that stage, re-education considerable and complete migration pretty much impossible.

Gone too early?

It is weird that for project that ambitious it had that little time. Sticking with it might have got it through many (if not all) of early issues. Google is anything but not resourceful company, it is reasonable to believe it could afford to keep service afloat longer.

Had faith in project been lost internally as it failed to gain ground? Was it on some kind of deadline? Would be interesting to know, but likely that reasoning will remain buried in Google.

Overall

From here Wave’s heritage can go in two directions:

  • slowly reusing and integrating Wave pieces, until several years down the road Google services will slowly turn into what Wave was meant to be;
  • receiving a stigma of failure and getting blacklisted as things that failed and not to be tried ever again.

Either way Wave that was introduced only last year is gone and we won’t see anything like it any time soon.

Hyped by many will be missed by few.

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2 Comments

  • .

    Gina Trapani fell all over Google Wave, but the rest of us had much
    difficulty figuring-out how it functioned …much less what it does !

    This the negative of giving techies too much liberty without market
    constraints.

    .

    The Computer Rodent

    .

  • @DataRat

    It was difficult to figure out more because it worked crappy than because of complex concept.

    So what I find most weird that it was pulled this early. I doubt they really expected world to go crazy over Wave and drop email and IM for it in a measly year.

    I wonder if we will see third party developers seeing this as opportunity to pick up open source parts and often pretty much same thing to people who actually liked Wave.

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