Google Wave’s Goodbye

By Craig Buckler
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Google is scrapping its Wave collaborative messaging service citing a lack of user interest. Google’s senior vice president of operations, Urs Hölzle commented:

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.

Wave’s poor uptake was unexpected. Google wanted Wave to be the next step in online communication evolution: it combined email, chat, brainstorming, scheduling, documentation, tweeting and feeds in a central location. Developers were also provided with an API to create their own collaboration tools and widgets.

Google’s biggest problem: no one understood Wave. Although it received rapturous applause at last year’s I/O conference, the company struggled to explain the concept. Despite numerous videos and a product relaunch in May, Wave continued to confuse and few people recognized the benefits. In our recent poll, 39% of respondents admitted they did not understand the product — a worrying statistic given that SitePoint has a highly-technical audience.

Like many, I tried Wave soon after the launch but soon abandoned it. The early versions were buggy and I couldn’t test the collaborative features because so few others were using it. Other problems included:

  1. Although it was marketed as replacement for email, chat and Twitter, it wasn’t compatible with any of those systems. Wave was a separate messaging tool — you could only use it to contact other Wave users.
  2. The system doesn’t support Internet Explorer. Neglecting 50%+ of the potential market won’t help adoption rates, especially when corporations were a primary target.
  3. Google Buzz overshadowed Wave, raised several security issues and contributed more confusion.
  4. The early hype could only lead to disappointment.

To it’s credit, Google undertakes many risky endeavors but responds quickly and decisively when a product fails. It’s not afraid to admit defeat — many other companies could learn from that example.

Read the full Google Wave blog post…

Are you a Wave user? How will Google’s announcement effect you?

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  • jordisan

    I’m an active Wave user. Maybe it’s too early for a tool like this one; users don’t understand yet how to use it.

    By the way; I think its ONE big functionality is (was) collaborative edition of documents, not email or twitter replacement.


  • Christian

    I’m a Wave user an really disappointed that Google decided to close the service. I used Wave to collaborate with my girlfriend on our weekly grocery list, we had a whish-wave for birthday and holliday ideas and finaly I used a Wave to share blogpost ideas with my co-writer.

    After Google have byed Etherpad, is there another Wave replacement out there? I don’t want to loose these collaborative features.

    • I’m quite surprised they’re closing it — they often keep the applications going but stop further development and new sign-ups. Although I suspect Wave costs far more to operate than something like Google Notebook.

      Perhaps they’ll change their mind if enough people complain? Just don’t send your letter using Wave — no one will hear you!

    • Christian, when Google bought Etherpad they opensourced the core technology, and there are a few Etherpad providers around.

      See for a list,
      and you can test it here:

      Not sure if any of the providers are reliable and here for the long haul, though.

  • GoD’s GiFT!

    I love using Wave with all the collaborative features and all. I guess why there aren’t many users is because it’s invite only. And most people doesn’t understand the use of it. I really hope google will continue Wave or have a replacement for it.

    • It was invite-only for several months, but it’s been fully open for anyone to sign up for a while now.

  • Alexander

    I can not understand this.

    At my University almost everyone uses Google Wave for simultaneous transcription of tutorial lectures or doing Q/A Sessions as well as writing down our own notes. Every Project we’ve had for the past year we’ve also coordinated and done the rough work through google wave.

    Wave was a perfect way to work with multiple users without the headache and bugs we usually had through google docs or google groups when multiple participants were in the same file.

    A sad day.

  • Jared

    A typical user doesn’t get Wave. It doesn’t replace email or Facebook so it’s really no surprise that they are killing it off.

  • Matt

    For me it wasn’t a problem of understanding – it was simply too slow to use!…

  • The (relatively) few people that did get Wave and could use it with like-minded friends, students, or coworkers, used it for the collaborative document editing, and not for the messaging features.

    My guess is that, if collaborative document editing is going to be the focus for users, then Google wants people to use Google Docs for that.

    • And perhaps that was another problem — Wave was a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none.

  • Andrew Sittermann

    It’s a real shame. The real-time multi-user apps supported by wave have a great future. We have a Google Wave travel-planner called “Travel WithMe”,
    and people love the real-time experience.

    Sensing that wave might not be going places, we’ve put it on facebook now as well, but still with Google Wave’s realtime features. It’s at

  • I seemed to have totally missed “the wave” altogether, which is not a big suprise. I think (believe) Google is not reaching the targeted audience with marketing campaigns and pulls the plug too soon. There are features and Google services I tell other people about and they are suprised too. Google has a literal confusing maze of things going on.

    In all honestly, I have had issues finding some of Googles services easy to use. They are missing the mark in the GUI design, you know the human aspect of software itself.

    There’s a few things with Google web application design that have already offended me. Small things like not making it know about character input limitations on a feedback form. I went to use a form to give them feedback on a specific issue, clicked submit and discovered everything I wrote and was trying to submit was twice the accepted limit.

    It was upsetting because I take the time to be considerate and think of the end user experience. I know somebody had to have slapped that code together quickly without having much experience in web form design.

    All in All, Google wave never became popular enough to have jumped the shark even. Google is doing some really awesome things and at the same time a lot of things to make people go Hummm over.

    • I agree with most of the comments here about why Wave didn’t survive, such as the invite-only announcement of the product, the slowness, the hype. I would like to add that images never made it to any email inboxes.
      But what is especially distressing, and iDude brought up this major issue, is that Google applications seem to be half-baked and badly documented. Then they try to fix them and they break even more – a typical software development glitch – and one would think Google should have figured that out by now. Maybe Wave will be the failure that helps them succeed.
      I would like to mention that THIS site (yes, this here sitepoint site) is an example of interface design that corporations like Google might aspire to if they ever get their heads out of each other’s asses and take a look at the world around them.

  • I gave Wave a try and yeah, it was nice. But I couldn’t come up with the question to which Wave was the answer. I think all collaboration solutions are missing the point, that many people want to work on their own pace and asynchronously from others. On the other hand, I read a few good use cases here in the posts, so Wave might be a good thing for some – but unfortunately it was way overhyped and many people (including me) stay away from things that are promsing to change EVERYTHING. My attitude worked well on Second Live as too…

  • Arkh

    First : the staged launch was an error. Wave should be used with people, not what we got at first (an app, with no one to use it with). And people who are displeased with an app rarely come back : the first impression is important.

    Second : slow. This should not have been released as a webapp but as a full-fledged communication app until browser js perfs got better.

    Third : why close it ? Like with GEARS Google drop the balls. The more often they do that, the less developer will invest the time needed to create plug-ins for their next project.

    • Yaroukh

      I don’t think dropping GEARS was a mistake. In a very short time no one will care about offline state. It is almost like fixing poor cell-phone signal by adding voice-recording. I know it is not 100% analogy, but I believe ‘offline’ will become something that happens ‘once a year’.
      I’m also aware of the fact that this opinion might be in conflict with the widely adopted one.

  • What’s wave? ;)

  • Karl Goldfield

    Teambox is a better tool anyways

  • jim

    I one of those that confused it with Buzz, heard about the privacy issues, and decided not to try it. I guess part of it was my laziness, but I also think Google should have tried harder to distinguish the two.

  • Lex87

    Laugh.. the article title is wrong the comments are wrong.. everyone skipped the “at least until the end of the year words?” WTF?

    Wave isn’t gone, they just stopped development. I still have a working wave account and I just signed up to wave with a fresh account.

    I bet that if people are using Wave, after the replacement has launched, (thanks for that “by the end of the year hint Google) they probably won’t discontinue it.

    Please ignore the previous comments as people didn’t check anything before replying. ;)

    • Time will tell…

    • The face that comment is in the article doesn’t contradict the title or any of the comments I have read. Google IS scrapping wave.

  • joey

    I use wave everyday at work to collaborate and project manage the product development, production, testing and delivery of our manufactured goods, overseas with China, and internally domestically. I was able to do twice the amount of work in half the amount of time. The ability to eliminate, error, redundancy, and mis communications was invaluable.

    The biggest mistake in marketing the product is they let the product development team handle the marketing. this should have been handed over to marketers, not product engineers and designers. The ability to give a guided a tour of a software app is not the same as communicating the benefit and building the need to the end user. I’m sorry, but the two spokespeople that did all the videos were horrible presenters with no life, character, or professional presentation skills whatsoever. They weren’t funny and were borderline annoying. no one knew how to use it cause no one wanted to watch the training vids.

    The biggest mistake i see in adoption is that they only open beta tested it for 4 months. I was using Facebook for a full year before everyone else i knew started using it. 4 months is not long enough of an adoption rate for a product this robust especially with crappy marketing. It replaces so many different tools that you have to consider the adoption rate for each function as a replacement for an older method.

    nuking this app by year end is a very big mistake.

  • For myself, I never wanted all those things combined in a single app. I am very happy keeping various functions in different apps. I suspect most people felt the same way, and there was never a compelling reason for them to adopt it (even if they’d heard of it).

    Things that Google seem to do well: search, analytics, email, chrome. That should be enough for them.

    Now, if Google could just kill Buzz too… :)

  • astrotim

    I believe Wave is ahead of its time. The average user is conditioned to the segmented communication methods of email, IM, phone, etc and Wave is too far away from all of these for most to make the migration. Not to mention that hardly anybody was on Wave.

    I think a new incarnation of this idea will eventually be adopted in the future and those of us who remember will say “Remember when Wave did this in 2009 and no-one got it?”

  • Anonymous

    It’s the users fault ey? we don’t understand it huh? or maybe it was just completely useless? ever thought about that google… lost some more respect for that company now.

  • Yaroukh

    Wow, I did not know they killed Gears. I had arguments with a buddy of mine as I’ve been always saying this offline stuff has no future.

  • config

    Real shame to see Google dump the Wave. I’ve been using it as a collaborative document creation tool and for gathering input from participants for podcasts, and really starting like it. Some of the early annoyances have been kicking into shape, and with all the collaborative power the thought of the 3rd party extensions we’d see over the next few years made my brain fizz.
    I’d completely missed it coming out of invite-only and into public beta – I think Goog messed up there, leaving it to stumble out of the stable rather than slapping its rump and see it bolt.
    Still, corporate takeup was always going to be a problem. After all, if they can’t get their thumbs out of shady places and upgrade from IE6, what hope is there? My wife works for a rather large mega corp, and was tasked with getting SOPs up to date with a colleague. When I showed her Google Wave she almost wet herself in excitement at the prospect of working concurrently on docs from home! (The first glimpse of geek I’ve gotten out of her.) Sadly the IT policy blocked it because it was classed as “instant messaging”. She managed to find that the company had licensed Zoho, but over VPN it was failing to load. I snooped some of the JavaScript. Yikes. Masses of unoptimised JS and images – hardly good for a corporate solution used over sometimes cripplingly slow VPNs.
    RIP Wave. You’ll be missed. Perhaps we’ll see you in another life, like live editing and embedded widgets in Google Docs

  • webnician

    Loved it. Embraced it. But it was too slow and no one I knew would use it.

  • Bola Owoade

    Google should understand that not all their products will be a hit like search and they need to be more patient or even start looking at alternative strategies that will make products successful. The core of google’s business is still tied to search, be it maps, gmail or even the Android mobile OS. I believe wave is a good product but it needs a bit more time to mature and be embraced publicly.

    Earlier this month Google put an end to it’s Nexus phone and do you remember Orkut, their social network, what happened to it? Google needs to be patient, they build good products but really have not learnt how to market or promote them. Their search engine practically sold itself because it was the best, Google maps did the same not necessarily because it was the best, but it was free. I am a GIS graduate and I know how expensive digital mapping is, Google Maps changed the game by making free maps coupled with a great api that others could use widely available and that’s what made it a great product. When they tried this strategy with orkut and Nexus it didn’t work.

  • WebKarnage

    I didn’t see the point of seeing each letter as it was typed etc. other then to get the impatient to get the wrong end of the stick and to slow the process down too much. It’s a tool that can actually promote impatience and ill thought out (or not thought out at all) communication. It’s a model I wanted to keep well clear of for anything that mattered.

    I’ll not mourn it, I’m just glad I never had to get involved in anything that was important through it.

  • I could see universities setting up their own wave servers for lecture annotation. Certainly seems to be the big use case.

    I think what Wave really needed was a big media outlet willing to take a risk and try something different. For instance, if Google could have convinced CNN to have backed each new story with it’s own wave. On the surface things might could have looked the same to everyday-joe users. But if you wanted to dig below the surface a little, a user could unveil more and more interactive wave features.

    The best way to learn is to use.

    On another tangent, Wave didn’t seem to be going THAT badly that it needed immediate killing. Plenty of Google projects have struggled on for years after it was clear they weren’t going anywhere — Jaiku, Notebook, Google Video, etc..

    Seems to me the only reason you’d be so quick to to knife it, is you want to deploy the key people (Rasmussen’s) on something else more critically important.

    Google.Me anyone?

  • Yichen

    “Wave’s poor uptake was unexpected. Google wanted Wave to be the next step in online communication evolution: it combined email, chat, brainstorming, scheduling, documentation, tweeting and feeds in a central location. Developers were also provided with an API to create their own collaboration tools and widgets.”

    Dose Wave’s function really so much? If it is true, then the user who is a big advantage.


  • Smorg

    The only tool you need for collaborative document editing is Git. Then there’s wikis… of course git works as a wiki too. Seems there are existing tools to do a lot of that.

  • config

    @Yichen – Yes, Wave can do all of those things. You may need extensions for Twitter integration or feed aggregation, but it’s all possible.

    @Smorg – Git is great at what it does (it’s my repo tool of choice), but what it doesn’t do it live, collaborative document editing and support for embedded widgets, or have an published API for any number of third-aprty extensions. Nor do wikis for that matter. I’m sure you could build a layer to do that, but then you may say “why, when there’s Wave?” The revisions ‘playback’ might be a bit fooey in Git and Wikis too.

    @Bola Owoade – Orkut is still out there and, apparently, has a huge user base in Brazil. I joined it and was faced with the ‘er, what now’ I had with Facebook. Difference was Facebook changes (3rd party apps was the killer stroke IMO) and my friends join, Orkut not so.

    As for Wave being slow – I launch as a Google Chrome app shortcut. Pretty nippy, it is.

  • TNT

    Sorry to hear that; it was such a good app for activities.