Google Wave Crashes

Last May Google Wave was unveiled as a new communication platform and positioned as a successor to both email and instant messaging. It was also a powerful, real-time collaboration tool. It did other things too.

Perhaps that was the problem; it offered too many possibilities. Beyond that people didn’t necessarily see the need for Wave, even if it was more productive and efficient than more conventional tools.

Here’s what Google said when Wave launched:

After months holed up in a conference room in the Sydney office, our five-person “startup” team emerged with a prototype. And now, after more than two years of expanding our ideas, our team, and technology, we’re very eager to return and see what the world might think. Today we’re giving developers an early preview of Google Wave.

A “wave” is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

Google is now shuttering 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; and enabling third-party developers to build new tools like consumer gadgets for travel, or robots to check code.

But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, 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.

Some of its features, as the Google post says, will live on in other Google products.

There was something very unfamiliar and even “avant-garde” about Wave to many, despite a range of virtues. People didn’t and perhaps couldn’t “get it” at a glance. The bottom line is that it just may have been to complex, ambitious and ambiguous for other than a small segment of techies.

Here’s what I said after using it a bit:

Wave has huge potential, but people will definitely need to use and experiment with it before they understand and see its benefits. There’s a clear learning curve and some complexity surrounding the product; it’s not entirely intuitive. Wave probably also needs to incorporate email in order to go mainstream.

Google could potentially have simplified Wave and scaled it back, or focused it on fewer core features. And Google also probably needed to do some more outreach and education around the product.

Google has historically been reluctant to favor products or promote them, preferring instead to let them sink or swim on their own. Google’s philosophy surrounding new products is not unlike what happens when sea turtles hatch on the beach: those that gain adoption organically make it back to the water and live. Those that cannot or are intercepted by predators don’t.

Google Wave obviously didn’t make it back into the sea.

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Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Apps For Your Domain | Google: Enterprise Search | Google: Gmail | Google: Other | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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