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Wave Bye-Bye

By  Aug 6, 2010

Topics: Internet & Web Apps

Fifteen months after Google Wave was announced and the ensuing Wave mania, Google has pulled the plug on this once promising app.

After a lot of hoopla, Google has pulled the plug on Wave, its much ballyhooed content sharing platform. While the news might have come as a shock to many of us (especially those of us, ahem, who have been working on Wave books) it's really not hard to see why it bit the dust.

At its heart, Wave was an online app that was intended to merge email, instant messaging and social networking into a one-stop program. Problem was - at least one big problem that I saw - it was darn near impossible to explain why the world needed Wave (or a book about Wave, for that matter). Trust me, I had that conversation when I initially pitched our first book on the now defunct software. It wasn't easy defining what Wave did, much less quantifying what a book about Wave would cover.

Wave was announced at a Google conference in May 2009 amid a lot of fanfare (frenzy is more like it). In fact, when Wave was being beta tested, it was a closed, invitation-only affair. People were clamoring to get a peek at this newest software and unbelievably, were auctioning invitations to join other users' networks on eBay. For a time, it seemed that Wave might be next big thing. We publishing folks like "the next big thing," so we hopped on board, even if we weren't entirely sure just what in the heck it did.

And we learned that Wave really did have some cool features. Described by Google as being "equal parts conversation and document," Wave allowed users to collaborate on documents, add comments, invite new participants, and edit documents in a group environment. Each of these conversations/collaborations
were known as "waves."

Sound familiar? Sound a bit too much like what Google already has with its Gmail and Google Docs apps? It did to us, too. Of course, Wave was far more than a rehash of Gmail and Docs, but I think Google never did find a way to explain to the world what made it different. After the Wave mania fizzled a bit and people got down to brass tacks with it, I think it became evident that what Wave offered just wasn't mission critical.

People use Twitter, instant messaging, Facebook, Google Docs and good old fashioned email to achieve nearly the same thing. Because people use different programs for each of those activities, many people simply didn't use Wave. If you couldn't find other people to join your wave, you were sitting there, collaborating with yourself. In the end, it appears that even though there are many examples of groups using Wave to achieve some pretty cool things, there just wasn't enough interest to justify the continued cost of developing the software, and it was time for Google to kiss it goodbye.

According to Google's August 4 announcement that it was putting Wave out to pasture, the service will remain available, likely through the end of 2010. There will be no new development, however, and it's likely to slip away entirely by early 2011.

The good news, however, is that the brainy folks at Google do see enough value in various pieces parts of Wave that we might see parts of it reappear in other Google apps. So while Wave appears to be a goner, it might end up being an organ donor for other Google programs. Watch for Wave to reappear in some new incarnation in the not-too-distant future. 

For now, I'll just pack up my nearly finished Google Wave manuscript and go home.