Well, that didn't last long. Google has announced it plans to pull the plug on Wave, a collaborative platform that once looked like it might become a Gmail-level success story for the search giant. In fact, there was talk that the platform, introduced last May, could replace e-mail altogether.
Despite "numerous loyal fans," wrote Google SVP of operations Urs Holzle in a blog, "Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked." Google has stopped working on Wave as a stand-alone product, said Holzle, though the application will remain in operation through at least the end of the year.
At the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe Wednesday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt tried to put a positive spin on Wave's death. "Our policy is we try things," he said, according to CNET. "We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new."
For a while it looked like Wave would be a huge success. Last fall, when Google sent out 100,000 invitations to the beta version of Wave, it was an ultra-hot ticket. Invites were all over eBay, with one seller telling the Wall Street Journal that he had fielded offers as high as $27,000 before the auction site asked him to stop the sale.
At the time, Lars Rasmussen, Wave's engineering manager, and product manager Stephanie Hannon, noted that "Google Wave is a lot more useful if your friends, family and colleagues have it too." And that turned out to be a problem. When a platform's success relies on there being other adopters to interact with, an invitation-only preview doesn't really work.
But Google Wave wasn't ready for "prime time," as Rasmussen and Hannon readily admitted. Beta users "will still experience the occasional downtime, a crash every now and then, part of the system being a bit sluggish and some of the user interface being, well, quirky," they said. So Google limited the number of users, which meant that a new user basically heard crickets upon signing on.
It didn't help that Google never seemed to know how people should be using Wave, which Holzle conceded Wednesday: "We weren't quite sure how users would respond to this radically different kind of communication," he said. It's admirable to let a platform like Wave develop organically, but a little more direction might have helped.
Wave became widely available May 18, but it was clearly too late. "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," pleaded Hannon. "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."
Wave may be dying, but its technology will live on. "The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave's innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began," said Holzle "In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily ‘liberate' their content from Wave."Rest in peace, Google Wave.