Aug 11, 2010

[Google] Goodbye Google Wave

Active session of Google Wave inside Google Ch...Image via Wikipedia
On May 27, 2009, Google made a breakthrough announcement - a revolutionary new product called Google Wave. They described it as a radical new way at looking at communication from a modern perspective. It promised greater capabilities for real-time collaboration as a combination of email, chat, wiki writing and social networking. The service also allowed for developers to create custom extensions to expands its capabilities and make the game a heck of a lot more powerful. The sky was the limit really when it came to the platform.

I fought tooth and nail to get a beta invite so that I could start playing around with the service. Seriously, the lengths I went to in order to find a friend who still had invites for the initial closed beta was, well, crazy. And when I finally got my invite, I totally went nuts with the service and was wildly excited about the potential for the service. I could see how this would totally change project management collaboration online with other unique use cases such as running roleplaying games online.

But on August 4, 2010, Google decided to shut down Google Wave at the end of the year, citing lack of user adoption as the reason for axing the service. Of course this announcement broke my heart and I can't help but feel it's a tad too soon. It's only been less than three months since the service opened to the public and now they're already killing the service.

So of course I wanted to spend a little time to talk about it.

I am a Google Wave user, and I'm pretty proud of this fact. Any opportunity I can get to promote the service with my friends or try to start a project online, Google Wave would definitely be in that conversation.

Wave faced a few major challenges after launch. First was the fact that the service is highly social in nature and the initial closed beta didn't immediately give folks enough Wave users to interact with. Even when they released over 100,000 Google Wave invites to encourage more users to get on board, this was a pretty small slice of the population. Like any socially-oriented application, when your friends aren't there the service just won't take off.

Then there was the larger challenge of what to do with Google Wave. Let's face it, Wave is definitely a great example of the kind of innovative forward thinking that Google is known for. However unlike the changes they introduced to the web-based email world with Gmail, the Wave concept was a lot more to swallow. At the end of the day, people just didn't know what to use the service for or how to get around to using it. A lot of tech sites published articles and blog posts about best use cases for Google Wave as the world tried to answer the question about what to use this revolutionary service for.

I think it was clear to many people, myself naturally included, that this service was definitely useful and had a lot of potential. It's just that people didn't know how to fully utilize this potential to the fullest. When people think of online collaboration, a lot of folks still limit their thinking to email or chat. Cloud-based applications like Google Docs have been around for years and yet people don't quite maximize the collaboration options built-into it. The future is in the cloud and in social applications and Google Wave was a good way to maximize both.

To be fair, the average internet user isn't really the best example of how needs Wave. Online collaboration is a function better geared towards business users and it took a while before Google Wave was made available to Google Apps users. So you have to admit that there hasn't been much time for what is probably Wave's best target audience to get fully accustomed to the service.

A lot of the online speculation going around is that shutting Wave down is more related to the fact that Google wants to shift the engineers to other higher priority projects. Unlike some of the clunkers that have floated around Google Labs for years (hello Google Sets!), Wave takes up a lot of active resources and it's not just some project that they can leave running indefinitely (like the unsupported Google Notebook). I don't really care if they're shifting to the so-called "Google Me" project anytime soon, I just feel bad that Wave is going away.

There have been vague mentions of the key learnings from Google Wave being applied to other Google apps like Gmail and Docs, and I suppose this is all that we have to hang onto. To be fair, Google Docs has seen a lot of improvements over the past year that do echo features we've grown accustomed to in Google Wave and then some. Perhaps more targeted applications of the Google Wave concept will do people a heck of a lot of good and give them an easier time to adopt a service. If anything, I'm hoping we see the Wave approach better integrated into Gmail like what they've done for Google Buzz so that you don't need to separately manage a Wave inbox and a Gmail inbox.

I also hope they do something to help export the data already in Google Wave. A basic option to migrate Waves to Gmail archives or Google Docs would be awesome, or even a probably less popular approach of merging this with Google Sites would work. I actually have a fair number of valued conversations stored on Wave that I'd like to keep when Wave ultimately shuts down and given Google's philosophies towards data portability and migration, I think I have the right to practically demand this.

I'm still hoping that they'll change their mind and Save Google Wave or something, but then this didn't work for Google Answers, but we geeks can certainly dream, right?

Goodbye Google Wave. You were a bit too ahead of the curve for people to better understand how to use you better, but hopefully this won't be the last we'll see of your unique view of online communication and collaboration.
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1 comment:

  1. Hi

    When Wave was in beta, Google said that You could set up Your own wave-server. (I think it was called FedOne after the federation protocol).

    Have You (or anyone else any information if this is still possible, and if this will be cancelled too?

    BR Magnus