Google Wave – Ahead of its Time or Just Another Failure?

By: Chris Crum - August 6, 2010

Google Wave may be going away, but it is highly unlikely that the web has felt its presence for the last time. As Google said in its announcement, the company will "extend the technology for use in other Google projects."

Were you able to find a reason to use Google Wave?
 Tell us about it.

It will be interesting to see if the technology still goes by the name "Wave", but I have little doubt that some of the innovations we’ve seen in Wave will be popping up in various Google offerings in the form of new products and new features to existing products.

Google’s aim with Wave was to replace email. That didn’t happen, and frankly, I have a hard time believing that too many people bought into that one, but that didn’t change the fact that Wave did some interesting things. One only had to watch a demo or two from someone who knew what they were doing to see its potential.

The question is where will Wave fit into the Google universe if not as its own product? Gmail? If replacing email was the plan, it would make sense that some Wave-like features appear in Gmail, especially given Google’s penchant for adding features (and labs experiments) to it.

How about "Google Me"? It’s still unclear what Google is up to with this rumored social media project that everyone has been considering the company’s move to rival Facebook, despite no announcments from Google or any real evidence.  Wave certainly has social (not to mention realtime) elements that could factor into a broader social networking plan.

Here are a few significant moves by Google that may also contribute:

– Google is getting into gaming. Besides a reported investment in Zynga and talks with Playdom and Playfish, the company has reportedly agreed to acquire game company Slide.

– All YouTube users will be required to have a Google account

– Google is letting users sign into multiple accounts at the same time from the same browser. This could be big for businesses wanting control over multiple accounts more conveniently.

– One of the biggest trends in social media right now is that of checking in. Well, Google is focusing on that too with its Google Places API.

Of the company’s social media plans (apparently being run now by Vic Gundotra), Eric Schmidt says that Google isn’t looking to create another Facebook. "Facebook versus Google…We’re not trying to do what Facebook does. The world does not need another Facebook," he is quoted as saying.

Well, some privacy advocates may disagree with that (though Google’s reputation for privacy doesn’t exactly have the best track record). Either way, regardless of how Google pitches whatever strategy it has (not another Facebook), the fact remains that Facebook is eating up much of consumers’ time online, and that is no doubt time that Google would prefer be spent with their properties. So from that standpoint, Google vs. Facebook is very real. It’s about mind share, and ultimately about advertising. If Facebook ever uses the Open Graph to build its own AdSense-like network, then it will really be real.

But back to Wave’s role in Google’s future. How about Chrome? Wave functionality from the browser? Chrome OS? Wider adoption could be more easily achieved from the browser or the operating system. Any of this could be tied to whatever "Google Me" turns out to be, as long as it is connected by a Google Account.

People will call Wave a failure and stick it in the box of past Google social media failures, but Wave (or at least some of the concepts behind it) will be felt in the future.

"We liked the (user interface) and we liked a lot of the new features in it (but) didn’t get enough traction, so we are taking those technologies and applying them to new technologies that are not announced," CNET quotes Google CEO Eric Schmidt as saying. "We’ll get the benefit of Google Wave but it won’t be as a separate product."

Is it just me or does Google seem to be pulling the plug on Wave a little early? Could they already have a specific new strategy in mind for it that they’re already moving forward on?

What do you think about Google Wave? Sad to see it go or good riddance? Share your thoughts.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Guest

    I agree with you; it seems a little too early to give up on Wave. It’s a shame, really. The collaborative aspect of Wave has great potential. But maybe that’s the problem–its unfulfilled potential. I have a Wave account and never use it because, while it’s really cool, I just don’t have many fellow Wavers to…. wave to. And the ones that I do have in my list still prefer to communicate via email. So it could be that Wave is too exclusive and too separate from the rest of the Google products for its own good. So while this does make me a sad panda, if a super cool service I never use gets absorbed into a more established product, maybe it will be best for everyone.

    • Chris Crum

      Agreed. I also have a Wave account, but pretty much never used it because there was nobody to use it with, and I suspect many other “users” had similar issues. Another reason I didn’t use it much was because it was simply another thing to keep track of – another issue I don’t think I’m alone in having.

      This could turn out to be the most significant move Google makes for Wave – killing the product – that is if it does indeed integrate it into other existing products that people are already using. Wave always seemed like it had the potential to be a powerful tool, the problem was just deciding what for. Some discovered it worked well as a liveblogging tool. I always thought the extensions would eventually show its true power, much like Twitter’s third-party apps made Twitter more useful. Perhaps Google will be able to achieve this with its own apps (products).

      While some would call for Google to eliminate Buzz as well, the company maintains that it is actually doing well. Some may disagree, but I think launching it as a feature of Gmail – an existing product with a lot of users – was a smart move, even if the way they launched it left a little to be desired. The jury’s still out on how relevant Buzz will be, but they’ve been making moves to make it more relevant, and I don’t think they’ll be giving up on that so quickly.

  • Nathan Zeldes

    Sad… but perhaps inevitable, despite the early excitement (mine, too).

    As to it being ahead of its time, I wish we could say that, but I doubt any time in the near future will see human brains able to cope with such a riot of information, both visually and content-wise…

    • Chris Crum

      I don’t know. It could be all in the presentation (which would come in the form of the technology’s integration with other products). I can definitely see some elements making their way into a newsfeed-like format. Again, the liveblogging value has already been well recognized. Maybe some Blogger integration?

  • Brian Thomas

    I used google wave to plan my radio shows and podcasts with the other hosts. To lose this tool will cripple that ability to work with the others in an easy manner. Very sad to hear this news and will be looking for a replacement ASAP.

    • Chris Crum

      Now that Wave has been around for a while, it will be interesting to see how many other Wave-like services pop up to fill the void for the people that actually did use it. While I’m not personally aware of any, I’d be surprised if there aren’t already other similar services out there by now. Maybe one of them will catch on in a way Google’s version never did, much like Foursquare to Google’s Dodgeball (although those both came from Dennis Crowley).

  • Andrew Sittermann

    It’s a real shame. The real-time multi-user apps supported by wave have a great future. We have a Google Wave travel-planner called “Travel WithMe”,
    and people love the real-time experience.

    Sensing that wave might not be going places, we’ve put it on facebook now as well, but still with Google Wave’s realtime features. It’s at

    • Chris Crum

      That’s interesting. I wonder if Facebook will end up absorbing a lot of these Wave-inspired apps. Could Google actually be helping Facebook by ending Wave?

  • Mark Faggiano

    I wasn’t a heavy user, but did find situations where using Wave was valuable. It was the best collaboration tool I’ve used yet and it did cut down on emails for the projects I used it for. I’ll be looking for a replacement, but I dread the though of having yet another site to have to login to to handle this need. I liked the convenience of already being logged in to my Google account.

    • Chris Crum

      I suspect that convenience may return in one way or another (with regards to being logged into your Google account).

  • Guest

    It’s unfortunate that Google is pulling the plug on Google Wave. I think the biggest issue was trying to recreate email. Google Wave is an EXCELLENT real-time collaboration tool that was extremely convenient.

    The Google Wave project should have been positioned against apps like Shareportal and not email.

    I was using Google wave to collaborate on various projects with friends from all over the globe and now I’ll need to find a new solution.

    @ GOOGLE:
    Stop the INVITATION ONLY BETA testing and perhaps your projects will get more commercial attention rather than only a few people who are searching for specific tools. Also a little advertising/notification on your front page might get plenty of responses since most people use Google as their default home page. Food for thought.

  • Jackie

    One reason I think it failed was the need for a “special invite” to use Wave. They did the same thing with GMail accounts first. People don’t want “velvet ropes” around a social media site.

    • Chris Crum

      It would be interesting to know how it would’ve done if they hadn’t gone about it that way. It would’ve certainly gotten more people interested if their friends were using it too, but I’m not sure if would’ve cured the lack of being able to figure out what to use it for for most people.

  • Guest

    I use Wave all the time. I do web development and I use it as a project management tool to liaise with my distant web developers. Don’t know what I’d do without it.

    • Chris Crum

      Might be time to start looking for some new options.

  • Brian Myers

    I used wave as a collaboration tool, but it had issues with the “feel” of it. In other words while it was easy to use it didn’t feel intuitive. While it was simple to use, it didn’t feel straight forward. While the concept should have been in your face, it seemed people scratched their head knowing what to do with it. While the greatest power seemed to be in Professional collaboration, the interface felt less refined/more facebook.

    So it seems like they threw a bunch of good ideas together, hoped to refine it later with user input, then when everyone was confused as to how/why to use it they just pulled the plug instead of refining the power/purpose of it to match the needs of the user base. Ultimately I believe they will take the lessons learned from this technology and put it into other more focused areas that will serve professional and social markets while refining it as a revenue generating tool for Google.

    • Chris Crum

      I do think the timing of the announcement of pulling the plug is surprising, as Wave only became available to everyone in May. Getting it in the hands of more Google Apps users seemed like it would’ve made Wave more relevant, especially considering how hard Google is pushing Google Apps these days.

      That, again, makes me wonder if they already have specific plans in mind for Wave that Wave as a standalone product would interfere with.

      • Michelle

        I’m also surprised at how quickly that announcement was made. Google Apps has been around for years and yet most of the people I know haven’t even heard of it. So a three month lifespan for Wave is pretty abrupt.

  • stephen

    I hope they bring it back, but yes google wave did need a lot of work to meet the standards of todays user requirments.

  • Michelle

    I feel that Wave is unparalleled as a collaboration tool and it is unfortunate that the deployment went first to the general public. Google put the cart before the horse. It would have had better success if launched with Google Apps Premiere accounts and if it were more highly integrated within the existing apps. For example; while in Gmail have a Wave gadget that allowed you to create a Wave from an email string, etc. rather than have to go to another page and start from scratch. The natural progression for this product should have begun with people who are already collaborating because as you can see by several comments, these people have a fairly good understanding of it and how to use and apply it even though the UI was not as intuitive as it could be. Google could have then taken input and refined it for general release as a social product. My ultimate vision of Wave would be an online conference utility that tied into all the GApps with access to mail, calendar, documents, presentations, photos, etc. I’d like to see a Timebridge/Wave/Apps product.

    • Chris Crum

      That’s an interesting way of looking at it too. The strategy kind of fell somewhere in between what you’re talking about and a general public release, as until May you were only able to use it via invitation. Either end of that spectrum may have proven to be more successful than the route they took. They didn’t do much to promote it since it was made available to the public either. Schmidt mentioned Google’s promotion strategy in his explanation, as the company tends not to promote most of its products too heavily, but they certainly have a lot of product they’ve given a lot more attention to, at least in terms of updates, communicating through blog posts and announcements, etc.

      • Guest

        Wave is just a bit too edgy and overwhelming for mainstream; it’s clearly a ground-braking collaborative tool that must live close to it’s intended user group. A similar analogy would be products like Go-To Meeting and Webex—mention these to a Gen Y and more often than not you’ll get a blank stare, but Ventrillo and Skype are used in online gaming.

        I think Wave is a business class product and Wave-light might have been a better launch pad for the social environment starting with some gadgets in Gmail and building the public up in small steps from there.

        • Chris Crum

          Perhaps, and while Wave certainly has proven to be an effective business tool for some, I’m not sure its potential is limited to the business experience.

          • joe

            Simply, Google Wave is brilliant.
            I guess it was not marketed appropriated to engage the majority.

            I tried to convince some people, but they were reluctant due to so many third party applications and they did not want to try, very unfortunate.

            Sometimes people confuse garbage with real gold, and I think that happened to Google Wave, the gold.


  • lingoliz

    I run a design studio – there’s 4 of us (2 upstairs, 2 down) – we use wave all day long, one wave per client project (as well as our custom made crm for financial and timescale tracking) it’s cut down emails and instant messages which are not always traceable and has speeded up our project collaboration. I hope that Google integrates the functionality into their other products or that someone replaces it soon.

    Google are aware surely of the product’s popularity in business application rather than social environments….surely?

    • Chris Crum

      We’re getting a lot of stories of people who actually do use Wave. If there are enough of these are voiced, maybe Google will reconsider.

  • Inforat

    I checked it out, I tried it out, I threw a couple of invites out to ‘collaberate’ on stuff. I think its just a bit redundant. Google has already built in its google Chat and Vid chat capabilities through the webmail browser. Other social app platforms such as facebook/myspace/twitter are established and for detailed remote organizational support, its hard to beat sharepoint. I Don’t see it going farther, even if ahead of its time…

  • mcbargainelectronics

    At our company we used Basecamp before Google Wave came out. We love Google Wave way more than Basecamp. We hate to see ourselves using Basecamp again. We use Google wave daily.

  • Guest

    I hope they bring it back, but yes google wave did need a lot of work to meet the standards of todays user requirments.

  • kiwi

    You write: “- One of the biggest trends in social media right now is that of checking in. Well, Google is focusing on that too with its Google Places API.”

    Google Places is badly broken and totally unsupported. You only have to read any of the forums Help forum > Google Places > Discuss Google Places issues with other users to see that it isn’t working and is not being supported (at least nobody from Google answers issues). Its value is becoming very diluted by the erroneous listings that can no longer be adjusted due to account suspension or hi-jacking.

    Not sure why you imagine its anything Google is bothered with?

    As for Wave – its a corporate product that does have a future, its only way before its time. Many organisations still struggle with the concept of the cloud. The collaborative features of Google Docs are superb but require a change in mindset that people are slow to adopt.

    Is suspect if Wave had been positioned as “realtime email with video” then it might have gained more popularity. I doubt it has disappeared and reckon it will shortly re-appear in a slightly different form targeted at a slightly different market, possibly integrated into Google phone, or similar device. Maybe even as a Twitter on steroids.

  • buybooksonline

    It will be interesting to see what wave features do turn up in future google applications. Like you ,I’m sure it won’t dissapear all together.

  • myusa

    We became so addicted to wave that our entire R&D collaboration doctrine was built around it.

    What should we be doing now?? So much for being Google’s loyal early adopter.

  • tom jelen

    I Wouldn’t use it because everything Google has started it has discontinued and when complaining about it they have no response.
    Google is too big and too arrogant what do they care about your opinion?
    If I need something I don’t look at Google to provide anymore I use them to search and even that is frustrating, when they change your search parameters.

  • Kurt Schmitt

    From what I saw, Wave had some really interesting features, some of which I think displayed too much transparency and accessibility perhaps. I’m surprised they would pull it so soon, though, and I have to figure that a lot of it is going to become integrated into other products.

  • HelpALocalBusiness

    I liked GW, too bad its gone. It will interesting to disciver the real motive of canceling and what they intend to do with it in the next future. As I know Google, they do nothing without a real scope.

  • Sudoku

    The withdrawal of Google Wave makes no difference to, probably, the majority of people. They developed it, they tested it and the demand just wasn’t there. Methinks they simply want to do too much for too many people. We certainly will not miss it and, actually, haven’t dealt with anybody who did use it the last 12 months.

  • FOK Marketing

    We are dissapointed that Google Wave is going. To be honest, I knew it would replace email, but it did have other great uses. We use it as network To Do list, where we each add things to be done to a project, comment on progress and highlight issues, so everyone in our office, knows what each is doing.

    Each wave to us, was a project in action, with recorded actions.

  • Matt

    We did some research on why Google Wave failed. It shows that most people thought Wave had a lot of potential as a product, but was let down by the invitation only launch, usability issues and a lack of marketing by Google

  • Paul Kruger

    This is what really worries me about Google. I am ready to switch to Bing until they do an about face.

    • Mat Weller

      You know, I just got back from the eTail conference in Baltimore and the word ‘Bing’ was not said one time in two days. Not in seminars, not in conversation, nowhere. I was conscious of it, because last year it was the prophesied ‘Google killer.’ You couldn’t walk 10 feet without hearing it mentioned. Now: nothing.

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you can’t get your search engine mentioned at an internet marketing conference, it probably doesn’t have much of a future.

  • Don

    I am very saddened that Wave is leaving. I don’t use Wave frequently, but when I do, it is very helpful. I work at a church and several times a year we have big events/projects that we managed with Wave. We would add team leaders who would update progress on their aspect of the project. They could attach documents they were working on such as invite cards, flyers, maps, and volunteer guidelines for everyone else to take a look at and offer suggestions. We could also message each other with specific issues. Another nice feature was being able to replay the development/history of the project.

    Does anyone know of a similar app or web based solution for projects that will work similarly?

  • Guest

    We do not need GW. There are better Tools.

  • Mat Weller

    I think Wave had enormous potential, there just weren’t enough people who knew about it to create the buzz it needed. I would love to see a lot of the features incorporated into Google Docs. When I share a Doc for a project, we often highlight text we change in different colors so we can track who did what just like Wave did. Add an option to embed a chat, and I think you have a winner.

    It’s a shame Wave died. Buzz is the project they should have killed. What was the purpose with Buzz anyway? I’ve only seen it used as an echo-machine for Twitter.

  • Educator

    Working in a school, we use it to archive meetings and add thoughts to discussions of which we need feedback. It has been a wonderful tool in promoting discussion.

  • Barrett Powell

    There were so many great things about Google Wave. And there lies the problem. Google Wave did too much, was too flexible. It was a lot like having play doh. You could make a lot of cool stuff with it, but if you weren’t creative or had someone to share it with…so what.

    I really liked Google Wave. I envistioned it creating a whole new cottege industry of Wave consultants and developers, sort of like a database community. I saw frameworks being created for verticals like Real-Estate or other industries to facilitate things like Virtual On Line Closings where participants would contribute their part, documents, and files to the process.

    Google Wave was going to be the Next Big Thing. Then there was no one else to share it with and Google Killed it.

  • smsspy

    Google Wave looked fun, but I had a hard time finding a practical use for it… no matter : in evolution, you have to expect some dead ends.