Will You Surf on Google’s Wave?

By Craig Buckler
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Do you remember Google Wave? The HTML5 project was one of Google’s more exciting endeavors in 2009. Google believed that email was old, clunky and needed to be re-imagined for the 21st Century. Wave would be the next step in online communication evolution; it combined email, chat, brainstorming, scheduling, documentation, tweeting and feeds in a central location. What’s more, developers were provided with a full API to develop their own collaboration tools and widgets.

Wave was launched on September 30, 2009 as an invite-only preview service. The hype and excitement died the same day. The application was not intuitive, buggy, and few people understood it. Part of the problem was Wave’s interface: it looked just like another email client. Google also found it difficult to explain what Wave did and the benefits it offered.

Google then scored an own goal with Buzz. At best, it overshadowed Wave. At worst, it contributed to the confusion and raised some alarming security issues.

Like many people, I tried Wave but soon abandoned it. Few users adopted the system so there was little opportunity to try its collaboration methods. For all its faults, people understand email, use it every day and rarely encounter major complications.

However, Google still believe in Wave. They’re relaunching the project and hope to entice new users. You don’t need an invite so it’s available to
everyone at wave.google.com. Actually, it’s not quite “everyone”: the system fails to load in Internet Explorer and Opera isn’t supported.

Google’s blog post states:

If you tried Google Wave out a while ago, and found it not quite ready for real use, now is a good time to come back for a second try. Wave is much faster and much more stable than when we began the preview, and we have worked hard to make Wave easier to use.

Are you using Wave? Did you abandon it but are willing to try it again? Does it still confuse you? Or would you never use the system? Please vote on the SitePoint home page or leave your comments below.

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  • Dom

    I tried Wave when it first launched, but the thing that put me off the most was that few people I knew were also using it. I could see the potential of it, and even now I think it’s a great idea, but people just weren’t taking to it as fast as they needed to for it to be truly tested.

    However, I did load it up the other day to find some public Waves about a certain TV show, and found that Wave still has a large active community. I’m definitely going to try and build Wave in to me day-to-day working web life.

  • sunwukung

    I LOVE wave – it’s a brilliant system for collaborative work – and that is it’s achilles heel. I’d urge anyone working in teams to give it another go. For the lone freelancer it’s going to make a lot less sense.

    It’s been my experience that people are reluctant to try new ideas out, think of how long Facebook took to get where it is now.

  • Ogvidius

    I loved the idea of it, but found it really slow during the beta, and hardly anyone I know is on google mail so it was very empty! I’d be willing to try it again though definitely, if they have improved the speed/smoothness of it and if I can encourage others to use it!

  • Anonymous

    As with a lot of Google products this is nice to look at… quite minimalist without being boring, and the idea is nice. Unfortunately, it just sort of fills a gap that isn’t there, without being actually innovative enough to encourage people to move to it. Looks more like something I’ll keep my eye on now though.

  • Richard Kimber

    I think the take up of Wave would increase dramatically with more integration with email.

    I for one would use Wave as my primary platform if it could gracefully degrade to communication by email. My Wave address is the same as my email, there has to be an opportunity there.

  • Redlab Balder

    I would only use google wave if I’m olbigated to for teamwork or if my employer enforces me to use it.

  • Milan Petrovic

    Even the new version is far, far from usable. Still supports only Safari, Chrome and Firefox browsers, and almost works in Opera 10.5. It’s very slow to load, many functions don’t work at all, or are very buggy (deleting a wave is a big problem).

    If Google want people to use Wave, it will require some serious overhaul to make it usable, it has to support more browsers and it must be fast to load and use. Right now I don’t see Wave becoming nothing more than an interesting idea, let alone to replace email.

  • darthdeus

    I tried Wave a little after it launched preview and I loved it, however none of people I know used it, so I also abbandoned it soon.

    But this time … I’m afraid it’s going to end the same.

  • When the first beta launched, i found it too buggy and slow, and it missed some features like decent management of “wave” ownership. I tried it again and it seems they have fixed the speed, most bugs, and the ownership issue. Good.

    Now the remaining hurdles for this tool to become successful are:
    1. Utility. Is it something people need? I’d say yes in a work/collaborative environment. But other collaboration tools exist already, sometimes with a more specific focus than the all-encompassing Wave, so we’ll see.
    2. Usability. Is it easy/obvious to use, and/or easy to learn? I see some problems here.
    3. Reliability. Can you rely on this tool for mission-critical collaboration, especially when you need great uptime, and archiving of information? What happens in 5 years when you need to get some information from an old project that was mostly discussed in Wave? You would need an archive format that’s a standard, the ability to read it from a desktop client or a self-hosted service, the ability to move your waves to a different provider (not Google), etc. E-mail is simple and somewhat flawed, but it’s reliable.

    • Apprehensive

      1. I am apprehensive that one fine day they might do to Wave what they did to Lively!

      What’s the guarantee, Google?

      2. I also feel that putting ALL eggs in one basket might be dangerous dependence!

      I don’t mind playing around though, at the moment.

  • I just don’t understand/see what it does…honestly.

  • I get what they were trying to do, and it wasn’t hard to use, but there just wasn’t any comfortable way to get it into my workflow – nor did they suggest a real collaborative workflow for it. It was just another one of those neat but ultimately useless concepts.

  • Tarh

    I used Wave frequently in the early days. After using Wave, though, I began to distrust Google for unrelated reasons; this caused me to abandon my GMail account which I had used for over 5 years. Along with it, I abandoned my Wave account.
    We still look forward to integrating Wave with our company. But before we can begin to do this, we need Google to release a stable server environment that we can run on our own systems in order to avoid dealing with Google and their questionable privacy practices. As soon as I receive word that they’ve released an open source server, I’ll jump back into Wave in a heartbeat.

  • Ulyses

    I don’t know how they released such thing. Let me explain my self.

    Maybe it’s useful to groups.

    But I tried the main page in Google Chrome 5 and … the content just goes away with smaller window size. Did they forgot about min-heigh, min-width, scrollbars?

    I’m questioning quality control has ever lay eyes on this. Shame.

  • JocK

    Wave definitely isn’t something that’s set to replace email, or IM, or forums, photo-sharing, or game-playing. But what it does have is elements of all of those. When your workflow for a project might encompass one or more of those things, Wave can handle it.

    How many times have you tried organizing an event, sent out an email to a handful of people, and then have everyone reply-all to make sure nobody misses anything. But now two or three different people reply-all but include other people who want to know about the event. Then those people reply-all to different messages, and someone from the original group replies to an earlier one and you now have some people getting everything, some people getting only half of the messages, etc. Through no fault of my own, I’ve seen this happen WAY too many times; it’s a pain to go through and see who WAS included on one message, but WASN’T included on another, copying addresses to include on final messages, etc.

    This doesn’t happen with Wave.

    When I add a new person to the Wave, they see exactly what the state of the current Wave is. I can delete all the extra chatter and simplify it into only necessary information. I can add a poll to get ideas for a trip, etc. And if anyone really cares, they can playback and see everything that happened to get there.

    I’ve also had a lot of success using it for class (martial-arts, not higher learning) notes with someone I’m co-teaching with. After class, we type up the notes of what we went over and any points that need to be made. We can make comments in-line which are separate from the actual notes, and edit things for wording / clarification. Once we both approve, one of us just copies the text into an email and sends it to our class. We use 1 Wave per term, 1 wavelet per class. Works great.

  • Haven’t voted, my option isn’t there. The demo video looked cool but that was ages ago, had an invite but too busy to care to try. It’s just email, prefer pub meetings.

  • Anonymous

    Ive never used it. But if they are being persistent with it, maybe I should take a look.

  • capescafe

    This was the first I’ve heard of Wave. I just signed in, watched the demo and it looks pretty cool. I can’t truly test it out yet though until I can get some friends to try it out with me. It looks like it has lots of potential though. It looks pretty cool just from viewing the demo.

  • Tim

    I want to like it, but everytime I open it up I find myself staring at it thinking “ummm….”. Then I think I should put some clients with larger workgroups onto it, and then I think about how much trouble they have with anything that exists outside of their precious Outlook, like the Gmail interface, and I realise that their is not much hope there.

    If I had my own staff of 10 I would give it a red-hot go, but I’m a lone freelancer, so I’m better off putting a mirror on my desk and waving to myself in that.

  • Clintonio

    No one I know used it.

    For me, that was it’s biggest downfall.

    I can see it’s uses vaguely.

  • Anonymous

    Looking at the sitepoint poll, over 50% either won’t use it or don’t get it; that’s pretty telling about Google wave. Giving that the readers of sitepoint should be pretty knowledgeable in web/technology, I can only imaging what the number will be for “normal” people.

  • Dom

    For those who don’t think they can use Wave without some of their friends using it as well:

    – Type “with:public” into the search bar to get a list of all public waves.
    – You can also specify other search criteria for public waves, such as “with:public lost finale”

    This will bring a up a list of public waves, so you can try out the collaborative features without the need for having personal friends and family using Wave as well.


  • James

    Wave’s biggest downfall was closing it off with private invites early on. My work is planning on using it for an online focus group rather than getting people driving across the country to meet.

  • Wolf_22

    I love the idea behind it. It really takes collaboration methodologies to a new level! Unfortunately, it may be a bit ahead of its time.

  • sqwirral

    I don’t think google are doing enough to tell people it exists and explain what it is. Seems more like they thought of a cool name and hope everyone will explore it because they want to be trendy.

  • powerpotatoe

    The technology is cool, but for me it is not any more useful than Gmail. I prefer the functions that Gmail provides. However, I am that one guy in the world who no longer uses chat or Facebook and I haven’t signed up for Twitter. (man, that feels good to get off my chest)

  • Anonymous

    Wave is a BS hype machine that’s kind of cool, but too similar to Gmail to warrant all the press. They should have just surreptitiously started rolling out its functionality as new Labs features for Gmail. This whole thing was a very Microsoft move on Google’s part.

  • _jas

    Google wave rocks.
    its REALLLy cool for organizing meets, or for voting with several peepz, in a fast way.
    by the other hand … its not that userfull on writting plain things.
    or at least … its roket cience for hammering a nail.
    Things that i do with that:

    A collaborative party
    Place ( adding a google map )
    Are you coming ( vote : yes/no/maybe)
    what you want to eat ( pollo gadget ( for multiple options voting ) )
    ( chinese, mexican, pizza, asado, bbq, etc. )
    what are you getting with you ( another multiple options voting )
    ( salad, beer, grill meat, coal, wine, etc )
    and at the end of that peepz can comment.

    Others example:

    On managing a game comunity:
    decisions of what to do with servers
    add stuff
    add staff

    As player of a game:
    discussing tactics on maps
    ( the image gadget where you cant coment on different spots on a map )
    votes of strategies and when to use them.

    As a player of a sport:
    for meetings with ppl
    place( google maps / pollo gadget ) / for spot location & vote
    day( pollo gadget ) / for vote day
    hour ( pollo gadget ) / for vote favorite hours / aviable hours.

    Another thing that helps getting peepz in its to have a wave with all the cool stuff explained.

    At least i do that when i get new ppl in, i share that wave,
    and if i want to only some ppl in that , i can clone it to anothjer new wave with a group of other peepz.

    some useful but i rather prefer gmail way , its the labels, they do not work quite good for now i the drag and drop way, i hope they solve it soon =).

    Well , i hope this will usefull for the ones that haven’t tried,
    and for a second chance the ones who have.

    if you dont plan to organize simple things in a quick way, it might not be for you.


  • WebKarnage

    Given how often I rewrite emails before letting them go as what I’ve written doesn’t come across and deliver the intended message, I can only view this as encouragement for lack of patience and mis-communication. Not what I call a recipe for a great deal of good.

    I’ll have to be dragged onto it by others in a team situation where the team leader has it in their head it’s ‘the way forward’. Yuck.

    with best regards,