Long It Won't Wave: Google Axes Wave

By  |  Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Wow. Google’s Urs Hölzle has blogged that the company is ceasing development on Wave, the collaborative service which it introduced at its I|O conference last year. It may use some of the technologies in other products, and everything’s open source, so others might continue work in it. But the product which once seemed like Google’s most audacious (even arrogant) attempt to change the way the world shares information isn’t going to change the world.

Here’s how I attempted to explain Wave shortly after it was announced:

I’m not sure if I can describe Wave in one coherent sentence. It:

  • Is a service that looks like a rich piece of client software;
  • Behaves like sophisticated threaded e-mail;
  • Acts like IM when multiple collaborators are online at once.
  • Is one of the most real-time collaborative tools I’ve ever seen.
  • Has revision marking and versioning for workgroup editing.
  • Has instant photo sharing.
  • Allows its functionality to be embedded into blogs and social networks;
  • Can serve as a container for OpenSocial applications;
  • Has what Google says is a revolutionary spell checker;
  • Comes in mobile flavors for Android and iPhone;
  • Is an open-source project that lets developers write both Wave extensions (we saw one that grabs tweets and brings them into Wave) and their own servers (which can talk to other Wave servers).

I’m probably skipping or forgetting about a third of the things that Google mentioned…and I’m pretty sure it didn’t detail everything about Wave in the 90-minute demo.

Wave debuted only shortly over fourteen months ago; even if it were the greatest landmark in collaborative computing history, I don’t see how it have become an unqualified hit in so little time. It’s just too ambitious, too different from existing tools, and too dependent on large numbers of people understanding it and liking it. Like Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook, it’s the sort of product that would succeed only after a long, hard slog.

I don’t know how many people are using Wave–it opened up last May— but it clearly got off to a rocky start on the PR front, and neve recovered. It was impossible to sum up in a few sentences. It seemed designed to replace e-mail and other tools that weren’t going to vanish just because Wave had shown up. Some of its alleged benefits seemed like downsides, like the way it showed you what other people typed character-by-character. At first, people wanted invites to the private beta; once they got there, they had trouble figuring out to do with it. After a while, simply mentioning it provoked jokes, such as references to crickets chirping.

In a strange way, the story of Wave reminds me of the short life of Microsoft’s Kin, played out over a longer stretch of time. You can make fun of Google for misjudging what users wanted so badly, and for deciding the whole thing was a bad idea only after investing scads of money in it. Or you can take a slightly kinder, gentler view: Maybe Google’s willingness to make the embarrassing decision to kill Wave is a sign it wants to do fewer things and do them better.

Anyone out there really sorry to see Wave go?



11 Comments For This Post

  1. Stephen Turner Says:

    I'm sorry, although I never really used it. I'm convinced it's the right tool for some types of collaboration, particularly business collaboration: much better than emails spinning out into multiple threads with a subtly different To: line on each. I just could never find enough other people who wanted to use it with me.

  2. Aurora Dizon Says:

    Noooooooooooooo! I love Google Wave!

  3. @dberkowitz Says:

    What I never understood was why Google Wave was needed given how well Google incorporated collaboration into Google Docs. I won't miss Wave any, but I'll keep using Docs personally and professionally especially when I want to collaborate with others.

  4. John Baxter Says:

    We were hoping to use a private wave server for meeting agendas and notes, and for other in-house stuff. We were not planning to use the Goggle-hosted form of Wave, since some of what we have in our agendas should not get out.

    Sad to see it go.

    But, [just past] the one-year point is a good choice of when to cancel.

  5. Evn Says:

    Very bummed to see it go. We use it for our blog to discuss issues, and collaborate on posts and post ideas. We've started talking about how we'll replace it, and, in my eyes, the alternatives are a poor second choice.

  6. jacquelineAM Says:

    I’ll totally miss it. It was brilliant for education – collaborative note-taking, adding in links and other background information, tying in google docs and presentations, and more and more… I used it in my classes and my students liked it as well. At the end of the class, there was a full record of what went on, including backchannel Q&A, and it could all be played back so Icould see where I needed to set up a concept better, if something needed a lot more discussion etc. Students could go over the class, if they needed to review a concept or had missed the class. I hope they morph it into a really good education platform, as Blackboard and Moodle aren’t all that.

  7. Fred Says:

    I'll be sad to see it go. Not because I used it much, because I didn't. Because of what it says about where technology companies are headed. Wave was innovative and new and risky. If Google pulls back from that, we get what? The ability to log into multiple Google accounts at once? Yippee. We had a big burst of innovation, but now we just get iteration.

  8. @heulenwolf Says:

    So, what was everyone who posted planning on doing with Google Wave? That's what was always missing in my eyes. Its like introducing a replacement to TCP – most people wouldn't know what new applications it would provide because they aren't even sure how the applications they currently use use TCP.

  9. camyyssa Says:

    I will indeed be very sorry to see Google Wave go. It was a great platform to colaboratively taking notes at the University and to write all the reports with my team-mates. I guess we can do with google docs, and it's a decent alternative, but at least my google docs is a mess and the search utility was a life-saver in wave.

  10. MikeP Says:

    I'm sad to see it go. I thought it was a good idea and loved surfing waves for interesting content. I used it at work for project management.

  11. Alex Says:

    I think the major reason why people stopped using google wave is because of its lag. If that were fixed, google would have a lot more customers on its hands