August 5, 2010

Wave Goodbye

So Google's blog announced today that development of Google Wave "as a standalone product" will end because "Wave has not seen the adoption we would like". It's kind of a shame, because Wave was intriguing, but as an infrequent Wave user I found several issues that made it less than user-friendly. So here are a few points that developers might like to take home from the train-wreck that is Wave (100 developers for two years is a substantial investment, even for Google). The servers will continue to be available "at least until the end of the year".
  1. Don't try to replace standard GUI components with inferior and non-intuitive substitutes. The Wave scrollbar was a user interface disaster, and a source of frustration to many of the users I interacted with.
  2. Don't promote technologies that depend heavily on high-bandwidth connectivity, or at least not for Internet use. Many times I was left frustrated, not knowing whether the Wave had crashed or whether it was simply waiting for a server response.
  3. Realize that even the best technologies need marketing and publicity. 80%+ of desktop computer users don't use Windows because it's the best system, they use it because it's the best alternative they know about. If people don't know about your technology they won't use it, and techies alone probably aren't the right user base to make a product viral.
In some ways I am sorry that the Wave didn't succeed as so many techies apparently thought it would. In other ways I am disappointed that the technology didn't really deliver on its promise. It's one of those things that needs to be ubiquitous to succeed.

Google's misstep with Buzz earlier this year probably didn't help either - it led to distrust about Google's intentions with regard to (or, worse, competence at securing) users' personal data.

So whatever the next big thing on the Web is going to be, it isn't going to be Google Wave. RIP.

1 comment:

Doug Napoleone said...

I think an important point that everyone seems to be missing is that the 'Wave' Google really developed and was hoping would take off was the API/protocol. The 'Wave' everyone is talking about is the demo application built in the protocol, which was a second class citizen to that protocol; intended as a showcase only. Very few people adapted applications to the protocol, and the demo app was... not very good.

Wave was poorly marketed at best, and down right confusing. The point was the protocol, not the app, but the app became what people though Wave was because it was the only visible instantiation of the protocol.

The API/protocol shows so much promise, and in my opinion is way ahead of it's time. The problem is asynchronous collaboration protocols are hard and confusing by their nature, and while Wave greatly simplifies things, the problems themselves are still conceptually difficult. On top of that, it is hard to see what applications _need_ the collaborative feature sets provided.

As facebook apps and realtime connected apps on mobile devices take off (and they are) we will see something like Wave emerge. This will require people to get used to the new means of communication first, and derive the protocol from those use cases.

Would twitter have taken off without SMS first becoming a standard and understood means of communication? No.

Wave was just too early.