Google Wave Challenged Email And Lost

By now you have heard the official news, Google Wave will no longer be developed and will eventually shut down. Parts of Google Wave will still live on, and you will have the opportunity to get your information out of Wave:

Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. 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.

Google Wave was supposed to be a game changing application. However, there were a few fundamental flaws. Most importantly, Wave was looking to replace email and throw in a whole bunch of collaboration and real-time features. The problem with this is that email is too big of a target to take on directly. Facebook has a better chance of changing email because people already live in their environment and have gotten people used to the idea that things change. GMail was a very different email client when it was launched. Wave was going after something that people did not see any reason to change, and people are very resistant to change.

Another problem Wave had was that it was a solution looking for a problem. What problem did Wave solve? Was it collaboration? No, there are plenty of products being used around the world for that. The real-time aspect of Wave was not a solution to anything either. Seeing people typing did not help the collaboration, but real-time has all the hype so it was included. Maybe we can get some of the interesting features added into GMail and slowly grow into something bigger than email.

Wave’s other major problem was marketing. It was marketed as “what email should be” or a next generation email. Louis Gray explains what it really should have been considered:

At its end, Google Wave, for Google, was as much an application environment as it was a destination…It was thought of as potentially disrupting e-mail, and as recently as the South By Southwest conference (SXSW), the company’s GMail team was being asked questions about competing with Wave for attention and resources at Google, and the panel called it “a leapfrog project” for the future Web, not today’s Web.

Google called it a leapfrog, when it really should have been an environment or platform. I have not looked at developing for Wave, but supposedly it has a very good API and plugin architecture. If Google had targeted this as an application environment, maybe it could have taken a different direction. By targeting developers, you get a lot of free help building an ecosystem around your platform. Just ask Twitter how important the ecosystem can be.

So, instead of everyone collaborating in real-time, we just need to say our farewells to some really cool technology. Hopefully we will see parts of Wave in other Google products soon.

7 thoughts on “Google Wave Challenged Email And Lost

  1. Joe

    Google Wave was pitched as what email should have been. The invite process was poor given the amount of initial hype, and definitely caused many people to lose interest. You are not alone in that respect.


  2. I think the problem is that Google built a platform, but never built a product. As a tech-whore, I was very interested in Wave, but as a human I was never able to find anyone else (even among my tech friends) who cared about it or used it. Without better motivation for a community to grow, I just don’t think it had a chance.

    On the plus side, I am sure much of what they learned will be rolled into other Google products, making them better.

    And.. maybe they’ll give Etherpad back? That was a product I liked! 🙂


    1. Shannon

      The platform idea is a very good point. I completely agree that we will be seeing pieces of Wave being rolled into other products.


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