Posted by Florian Wardell | 43 comments
R.I.P. Google Wave
Yesterday, Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President of Google, released a statement acknowledging the lack of plans to keep on developing Wave, a real time collaboration tool released a little more than a year ago. Hölzle mentions a lack of “user adoption”.
Wave’s dismissal is saddening because it was one of the most innovative and useful tool Google had released in a while. Yes, you’ve guessed it, we use Wave all the time here at TechHaze, be it to review articles pending for publication, to discuss internal matters or to simply fool around with other editors during our free time. For instance, Martin Schweiger’s interview was entirely conducted on Wave.
A question obviously has to be raised: why did Wave fail so miserably?
Perhaps one of the main reasons is the lack of a decent marketing campaign. When Wave launched, the start page featured a keynote video by Google’s Lars Rasmussen. The video was extremely interesting, with only one problem: it was well over one hour long. This might have been perfect for a small minority of tech enthusiasts, but what about the people Wave was aimed at? What about businessmen, researchers, students?
Google Wave’s learning curve isn’t very steep, but it’s not negligible. Anyone just trying the product out without having read or watched the appropriate documentation would have dismissed it as a “glorified IM client”, which is far from accurate.
Google’s second mistake, to my eyes, was the invitation strategy. You may remember that Google initially opened Wave’s door to just 100,000 people, which could in turn invite their friends. This strategy is the ideal hype-amplifier, and it worked well with Gmail because people knew what to expect: Google did not re-invent email, they just made it a whole lot better.
On the other hand, Wave may have gotten the required hype, but many freshly invited users were very quickly put off by the fact that they had no one to collaborate with.
Bad timing could also be to blame: a few months of invitations would have been OK, but Google should have opened its doors to everyone quickly. After a year, was there anyone who wanted to try out Wave who had not gotten an invite?
Whatever the reason for Wave’s failure is, the fact remains: There are two types of people, the ones that love Wave, and the ones that don’t know what it is.
But all hope is not lost, according to Hölzle:
The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.
Wave has taught us a lot, and we are proud of the team for the ways in which they have pushed the boundaries of computer science. We are excited about what they will develop next as we continue to create innovations with the potential to advance technology and the wider web.
I look forward to seeing what Google (and third party developers) will be able to achieve with the code. Meanwhile, we’ll have to include Wave to Google’s increasing list of flops: The Nexus One, Google Answers, Google Checkout, Google Viewer, the Knol, Orkut, Wave, and Buzz.
Contact the author via email