When Google launched Google Wave at Google I/O 2009, I was more excited than I had been about any new digital product in a very, very long time. It was one of those tools of which the use doesn’t become apparent until you start playing with it. Then possibilities start unfolding, and seem to go on forever, almost like one of those powers of 10 movies or applets.
It was an amazing app for collaboration, and between me and the people I worked with over long distances, we managed to create a level of being there on it, almost as if we were in the same room. The fact that you could see participants type text while they typed it made the chat experience revolutionary, and real-time, almost like a real conversation.
Then, today, I saw that it was killed.
At first, I was filled with a feeling of great loss. One of my most favorite apps, one that I have evangelized endlessly at parties, screaming over very loud music to very drunk, exceedingly disinterested friends. One that I thought would revolutionize the internet, again … and then it struck me:
I haven’t used Google Wave even once in the last two months. Maybe even longer. Why? Because there was no-one there. Why didn’t users warm up to it?
Too much platform, too little function
As a platform Google Wave was extremely strong, and there was nothing you couldn’t build on it. Despite this, however, it came out with no form of notification system. Long after a notification robot surfaced from the user community, Wave added it as built in functionality.
The shift users were supposed to make from existing communication protocols (email, chat, voip) to a communications platform (anything can be built) was too big. This is a difficult one for me. It was revolutionary; and well thought out. It was truly useful. But it was too much, too soon. Do we really live in a world where only incremental changes are tolerated?
The optimistic truth is, considering everything, Google Wave could have been a success if someone depended on it to be successful. If it was the property of a startup, with lots of Venture Capital who believed in the product, it would have worked, given enough time, effort and patience. Google is not a startup anymore. They don’t want to nurture ideas to fruition anymore. They’ve done that, bought the T-shirt, and worn it to bits. They have their products, and they’ll only add products that work instantly.
So … will someone buy Wave from Google? Will they even be interested in selling it? Probably not, but I can only hope …
Posted by Adriaan Pelzer