Friday, August 6, 2010

Waving it (Goog)bye

So it’s the end of Google Wave. I can’t say I’ll miss it, because I used it for about a month and whilst appreciating the technology, I couldn’t see a use for it. I tried to convince others I could see a use for it, but I was really only trying to convince myself. Perhaps I should apologise for being one of those early adopters that moved away. Or perhaps not.

So why did it not work? Here is yet another comms blogger’s probably-not-unique-but-what-the-hell-anyway thoughts on it. Yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but most of these thoughts I did have at the time, just take my word for it!

1. The buzz

No, I’m not talking about Google Buzz (incidentally another Google service I don’t get). I’m talking about the buzz generated around Google Wave. I got a very early invite from Google, and once friends found out I had invites to share, my facebook page and email inbox were overflowing with “Hey, can I get an invite to Wave too?” messages. Everyone wanted a piece of it.

And every time I invited someone else onto Wave, we started a conversation which always went along the lines of:

“Hmm, so this is wave. Cool. Er, right, ok, now what?”

You see, Google had pulled us in but then did nothing to keep us there. What is it they say, customer retention is easier than new customer acquisition? Well Google had done the initial hard part but then couldn’t follow it up.

2. There were other tools out there

Granted, if Google does something then you take notice, on the assumption they are likely to do it well. As with Apple (for me at least). But let’s face it, online collaboration tools aren’t a new thing, yet this was being separately touted as Email 2.0, the service that will revolutionise efficiency and workplace collaboration and all sorts. It didn’t.

3. No one could figure out exactly how to use it

Imagine if you had been told about a great new restaurant. The best there was, serving food that no one else in the world had ever heard of. And the restaurant owners told you to come in, enjoy the food and then spread the word about it. The first time you went in, you found tables, chairs, all the standard furniture from a restaurant. But no menu, and no waiters to guide you.

This is what Google Wave felt like – lots of people being told to spread a revolution without being shown what the revolution was.

Perhaps enterprise users could have gotten first use. Built up a presence leading to other organisations following suit. Helping Google iron out the bugs. Giving us something to see…a demonstration of how this new technology could be implemented for those of us who couldn’t see it ourselves. Think Apple and the first iPad keynote speech. Showing us where to start.

In that context, rolling it out to individuals for them to send invites to their friends about next Saturday’s BBQ party seemed like a bad deployment strategy. That sort of thing happens on Facebook every day. Already. So there was no reason for them to change their behaviour. Unless…

4. It could have been integrated with Gmail

A few days ago I blogged about integration of various online tools. And how in some cases it was a good thing, yet not so good in others.

One of the first things I noticed was Wave’s lack of integration into Gmail. For me, this was essential. Crucial. Perhaps the one thing that would have led me to continue using it. If Google really did see Wave as “email the way it would be if it were designed today (sic)” then they needed to make it so that that yesterday’s emails were integrated into it. It didn’t.

Web 2.0 didn’t throw away the traditional web and start again. Simlarly, email cannot start from scratch.

5. The iPad lesson

I hinted at this earlier, and Google won’t like this, but they won’t see it, so it doesn’t matter. But they could really look at what Apple did with the iPad. A device that created its own niche, helped in no small part to Apple holding our hand and showing us exactly where they thought that niche was and giving us a starting point.

Now granted Apple has hype, fanboys etc etc that propel its products, but you could argue Google has its own fanatics and brand evangelist army. Either way, it couldn’t find a place in the market. You could say that was a failure of research, product positioning and all manner of theories, but it was a failure nevertheless.


Google have said the code and technology will be retained, and that can only be a good thing, as I don’t think it’s the end of Wave. Maybe we’re all wrong and they were right, maybe we weren’t ready for Wave. Time will tell.


  1. what's wave again? ;-)

  2. Haha, don't worry about it, it's being phased out anyway!