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3 Reasons Google Wave Failed

August 4, 2010

Earlier today, Google pulled the plug on Wave, it’s e-mail/messaging/collaboration thing, due to lack of user interest.

Strange to think that just a year after it was unveiled to so much fanfare, that it was being hailed as the future of e-mail, and so on, it would be unceremoniously taken out behind Google’s woodshed and put out of its misery.

So why did it fail?

1. People don’t like others watching them type.

One of the features of Wave was that you could collaborate and edit stuff in real time. Which meant as you edited something or typed something, anybody else “waving” at the same time could see each character appear on screen as you typed it. Gah. No. If everything that came out of my keyboard in a fit of venting and subsequently got deleted when common sense and self-preservation reasserted themselves made its way out onto the interwebs…yeah. Pretty obvious why this one flopped.

2. No simple primary use case.

People – by which I mean the mass market that provides the weight to make something a success or not – don’t like complexity or ambiguity much. Hence Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Google’s successful products – Google itself, Gmail, Google Books, YouTube, Blogger, and so on, they all have very simple, easy-to-understand primary use cases. Find what you want on the Internet. Send people letters over the series of tubes. Watch videos of Justin Beiber. And so on.

Wave, on the other hand…

Nobody ever explained it well. Common Craft did an excellent job of illustrating the possibilities of such a service, but it still took them 2+ minutes, and they never distilled it into the one or two sentences you need.

Personally, I thought – and still think – Google Wave would make an awesome project management tool.

Which leads us to…

3. The absolute worst launch in the history of launches.

Okay, maybe not the worst...

or the second worst...

oh screw it

When Google launched Gmail, it did so in beta. You had to get an invite to join, and for awhile at least, those invites were basically gold.

I guess that’s why Google decided to do the same thing with Wave. Make it this hot, sought-after thing.

Just one problem. With Gmail, you could e-mail ANYBODY. With Wave, you could only “wave” with other “wavers”. Which pretty much made it useless.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool that like three people I knew in high school scored invites, and a few of the guys in tech services who I don’t work with directly on 99% of my projects, but it also made Wave completely useless for that project management/collaboration role that it seemed so well suited for.

By the time the invites opened up to where everyone could get one, the whole world had already said “meh” and moved on to absolutely freaking out over Michael Jackson dying or whatever was happening at the time.

Basically, by limiting access to try to create – ahem – buzz, Google suffocated Wave all on their own.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2010 8:24 pm

    I played with it but never had enough contacts to use it. I think there are great bits of technology here because it actually is conversations. Twitter and Facebook is Posting not Conversing. I think if somehow Google to meld the best of mail, maps, earth, buzz, wave and you tube they have the killer social network. But it has to be clean. And simple.

    I agree with all your points.

  2. August 5, 2010 7:17 am

    Could they of maybe colored the background of Wave differently? Would that of been the key differentiator?

  3. Eliot permalink
    August 5, 2010 8:20 am

    I was excited to try Wave from a project management / collaboration aspect, but the invite system killed it for me.

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