Later, Google Wave

Posted on August 4, 2010

Today Google announced the end of Wave,  and they gave a pretty clear explanation for it: “Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked.”

Honestly, I have mixed feelings on this. I know a few people who have used it with great success; in planning a party, for example, it’s easy to add people to your initial thread and they can easily see the one conversation, rather than having to slog through a big email chain and its various forks. I think Google just did not market this one well. I remember the initial trailer for Wave claimed that it would more or less replace email. Not an overly ambitious goal in the least – though if anyone’s going to try for such a goal, it’d certainly be Google.

But even more than that, I think people just did not understand how Wave could be advantageous to them. And the interface was initially confusing to most, so even if you wanted to use it, it was difficult to do so. And there were features that were just confusing. Why could people see everything I was typing as I typed it? I don’t want people to see the typos I make, or to see what I’m saying until I finish a coherent thought.

The other thing is that their rollout and integration were, for lack of a better word, wonky. As with most new Google products, this one got rolled out incrementally to people, so the end result is that you may have had Wave, but your friends didn’t. I got into it fairly early, but because none of my friends were signed up, I had no one to use it with. How can you expect to learn and use a collaborative tool without people with whom you would collaborate? Further, the fact that it was a distinctly different website than Gmail threw off a lot of people. If I wanted to check what was going on on Buzz, then, I would have to go hit the site in a separate tab. After a few days I more or less forgot that things may have even been going on in Wave, and I just didn’t hit the site at all. Had they rolled it into Gmail the way they did Buzz, I think it would have been more actively used.

I guess it’s sad to see a project that had potential be taken down, but in the end, I think Google made the right decision. If nothing else, I applaud them for being able to admit a failure and cut it off rather than dragging it out. Maybe they’ll open source the code so people can run their own instances, or maybe it’ll be integrated it into other Google products. I guess we’ll see.

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