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What Went Wrong With Google Wave

by Sean P. Aune | August 6, 2010August 6, 2010 8:00 am PST

Back in May of 2009, Google announced at its I/O Developers Conference that it was on its way to reinventing e-mail with a new product called Google Wave.  A lengthy presentation was given, and people started getting jazzed about it immediately.  In Oct. of that same year the product was finally introduced, and people went nuts for it those first few days.  During its “invitation only” phase invites were going for as much as $70 each on eBay.

Then reality set in, and now the product has gone the way of the cave man.

Google Wave Logo

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.

If people were so jazzed about it, why did it fail?  From my perspective it’s because it was “trapped” in the browser.

While there is no argument that e-mail is antiquated, the problem is that it works very simply, and you can access it just about anywhere these days.  I’ve been known to whip out my phone while walking on the treadmill at the gym because I feel it vibrating in my pocket.  I can see what’s going on, choose to reply or not, and just keep on going without ever breaking my stride.  With Wave?  Not so much.

Wave might have eventually gotten to mobile devices, and this argument would have been rendered moot, but it never got there.  For me to know if I had any new messages meant logging into the site, keeping the tab open all day and if I left the office, well, I was out of luck.  It was still far easier to drop someone an e-mail when I needed to talk to them instead of going to a site specifically built for a certain type of conversation.

There were a lot of nice features to the Wave product, it just wasn’t as dead simple to use as we’re used to.   Trying to “reinvent” e-mail is like trying to re-invent the wheel: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  I am sure we will see some of Wave’s more popular features show up in other Google products down the road, but, for now, just know that Google doesn’t always hit a home run.

What say you?  Were you a fan of Wave?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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