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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Google Buzz overshadowed Wave, raised several security issues and contributed more confusion.
- 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.
Are you a Wave user? How will Google’s announcement effect you?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.