Wave goodbye to Google Wave - but why did it fail?

You remember Google Wave, right? No? What do you mean you've never used it? And that's the point, ladies and gentleman.

Cast your mind back to last September, and tech-minded punters were flagellating themselves over the advent of Google Wave, without knowing anything about it; Google built up an insane amount of hype for its new product, the sort usually reserved for the World Cup and public executions. Only 100,000 Gmail users were initially invited to trial it, immediately creating a black market with invites selling for several hundred pounds a piece.

And when these folks finally got a peek at the Greatest Thing Ever in the Known 'Verse™, the collective opinion was... eh?

The attempt to re-invent email by transforming it into a real-time stream of shared media was a rare misstep by Google (but one it's since compounded with Google Buzz, of course). Wave made sense if we all had access to the service and found ourselves needing to collaborate all day long, but most of us don't and so we didn't.

We use email to share information with specific people on an adhoc basis, and in that context Wave felt like it was solving a problem nobody suffered. The fact that Google restricted invites to 100,000 actually helped to kill it; when interest in the service peaked, nobody with one of the golden tickets necessarily knew anybody else who also had the service, rendering Wave pointless. Another key advantage of email is convenience - we answer it as and when we choose to; we don't need or necessarily want it to be a real-time service that demands immediate attention.

And so last night, Google called time on Wave:

We were equally jazzed about Google Wave internally, even though we weren’t quite sure how users would respond to this radically different kind of communication. The use cases we’ve seen show the power of this technology: sharing images and other media in real time; improving spell-checking by understanding not just an individual word, but also the context of each word.

But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked.

Maybe it's all Google's fault for using words like 'jazzed'. Nobody speaks like that outside Google HQ, in much the same way nobody realised the "power of their technology".  So there'll be no more thought or effort put into Wave, although the service will remain operational until the end of the year. After that, you're on your own - although if you're a current Google Wave user, the feeling will already be eerily familiar.

Next up from Google is likely to be their attempt at tackling Facebook head-on, with some sort of social media offering mixed in with social gaming. But after massive missteps with both Wave and Buzz, Google's no longer looking like the sure bet for web dominance it was just a year ago.


  • The B.
    "the Greatest Thing Ever in the Known ‘Verse™" Pretty sure Verse isn't a trademark, unless Whedon's more anal than I gave him credit for.
  • Paul S.
    Three shiny points to you, Bob :)
  • Alexis
    Seems a nice idea for a specific purpose. Too niche for anyone to be bothered though.
  • Mark R.
    Pretty sure a lot of people are missing the point here. Wave was never going to re-invent email - although to generate interest the front-end of wave was made to look like that. The real clever stuff is happening in the background. It remains the most open, collaborative, secure platform that has been designed and built (that we are aware of). There are people working away on applications based on this protocol that will significantly change the way we work. Here's one example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3oEhEOY6wQ
  • PaulH
    What made that video even more ridiculous was the fact it played through like he was some kinda Google wave genius then at the end it turned out he didn't even have access to it...It was like the Apple Fan Bois saying the iPhone4 would be awesome...
  • Nobby
    1:23 The boss is a woman. No wonder it failed.
  • Amanda H.
    Should have called it: Apple Wave, and forced a pricey one off payment & per monthly subscription, and used images, videos and text that were brand new file types that were incompatible with the rest of the planets software. Billions of minions would have used it then.
  • Amanda H.
    Apologies for the above comment. I was receiving a Froggy Blow Job at the time.
  • Paul S.
    Mark, you might be right, but when Google themselves heralded Wave as email reinvented, that's kinda what people expected. Launching a tool based on collaboration but only allowing 100,000 users in the world to trial it - it's not a huge surprise that people didn't know what they were meant to do with it and consequently didn't experiment.
  • darkspark88
    I'm not afraid to say I simply had no idea what it was supposed to do. And when you have a product that requires users, such as multiplayer gaming, then you can't even experiment if nobody else is using it. The best thing to do would have to release it quietly, tweak the user interface for beginners and eventually those adopting it would realise the core benefits (if there were any) which would then trickle down to the mainstream. Mention facebook, and i can immediately tell you social networking. Mention Google Wave, and my mind actually goes blank.
  • Mark R.
    @Paul. I agree with you that the message sent out was confusing to say the least. And the video you have posted above didn't actually help (although it is a very good video in my opinion). The point remains, (I hope!), that we can build some really interesting applications on the protocol. The video I posted is a Proof of Concept for an app we have built on a platform developed by wave.to that uses the protocol. We remain convinced that the platform itself (rather than google's own implementation of it), could well be game changing. Cheers, Mark
  • Paul S.
    Completely agree with you Mark - fundamentally Wave is very exciting. Google screwed up the launch and the message. I think Buzz proved that Google have a tendency to sit in a bubble, and perhaps they don't appreciate who or where their market is. Good luck with the app!
  • Mr M.
    Stop fannying aboot Google and try pulling ebays proverbial pants down and giving it a jolly good rogering
  • Micha B.
    We at Eshbel thought were caught up in the excitement of Wave, but not necessarily because of its online capabilities. First of all, we agree 100% with your assessment that we answer email as and when we choose to, but this is sometimes the crux of the problem when trying to have a multi-recipient email discussion with more than one person on the thread. For example, if I have 5 recipients on my email and the first responds, and then the second responds, but the third doesn’t even read his email until a few days later, he (or she) may wind up responding to the initial email before getting to some of the later ones that others wrote. This can be compounded by people leaving some off the recipient list, or even changing the subject of the email for added confusion. Long before Wave was released we had already embraced the same general concept in developing our ERP solution PRIORITY, but we implemented it slightly differently. Whenever a user wants to initiate a multi-recipient discussion (or even if it’s one-to-one but has the potential to balloon out), they don’t send email, rather open a “Task.” In the task they record whatever they want in the text, and can designate recipients. When another person enters the task, they can update the text (with a time stamp), and when finished press a button “Send Message to Attendees,” and all recipients will be notified that there is an update. The email everyone receives does not send them the content of what was recorded in the task, rather a link to it so that all correspondence remains within the task itself. If someone is editing the task and another recipient tries to get in, they’ll get a message saying that so-and-so is updating the text and it will display in read-only mode. Recipients may receive multiple notifications for the same task, but whenever they log in they will ALWAYS see the most recently updated text, along with whatever appeared before as well so that they can follow the whole thread. We think the concept is a sound one, and will be adopted more and more as people adapt to conducting more of their business on-line and/or remotely.

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