We are gathered here today to mourn the passing of Google Wave. No-one really knew what you were, or felt they needed you. And in the end, few of us will miss you.
At Wave’s birth on 27 May 2009 Google described its latest progeny as a “live, shared space on the web where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.”
What this meant in practice was some sort of ambitious mash-up of real-time threaded editable updates, email, and live collaboration. That description probably doesn’t do it justice, but that just proves how even a geek like me found it difficult to grasp what the Wave was all about.
And unfortunately, rather than inviting everyone to the baptism of Wave, Google chose to make it invite-only for 100,000 people – not great if the person you wanted to collaborate with wasn’t Waving too!
Wave’s slip-ups stressed by Google’s successes
My own experience of Wave is probably echoed by many others. Initial joy at receiving an invitation, followed rapidly by bemusement when I found only a handful of contacts to talk to. It didn’t help that no-one really seemed to understand the point of Wave, and what they could use it for. The initial feeling of being part of something big faded fast (in contrast to Wave’s apparent sluggishness).
The reason Wave is such a staggering disappointment is that Google gets so much so right so often. I can’t imagine my life without the almost limitless storage and clever integrated features of Google Mail, Calendar and Docs.
Google Maps, Earth and Navigation help me find my way around every single day. And Google News and Google Reader are always there whenever I need to know what’s going on. So there’s the crux of the matter – Google released a product that no-one asked for and, it transpired, few wanted.
Google celebrates and learns from its failures
Announcing yesterday that the development of Wave had been suspended (it’ll continue to exist until the end of 2010) chief executive Eric Schmidt went on record dismissing Wave as just an experiment:
“Remember, we celebrate our failures. This is a company where it’s absolutely OK to try something that’s very hard, have it not be successful, and take the learning from that,” Schmidt writes on Google’s blog.
So while Wave might be dead, it may have just been the stillborn sibling to a bigger and better baby. Time will tell what the big G is planning next and whatever it’s learnt from Wave will no doubt prove useful. In the meantime, we’ve resisted the temptation for a ‘Wave goodbye’ headline. RIP Google Wave.