After much agony (and drinking) I have finally come to grips with the demise of Google Wave. It was for all intents and purposes very ambitious and I commend them for taking such a huge leap. Collaboration software was not even an after thought to the wider web world before Wave. Sure if you were a developer you had Basecamp or if you where in a corporate setting Microsoft Sharepoint, but to a normal web user there were Feeds, Walls, IM along with email and never the sum shall mix. Now collaboration is all the rave and even Enterprises are starting to pay attention. We can indirectly thank Wave for this.
Most articles and posts I’ve seen online have pointed to the fact that the underlying technology was amazing, but its marketing and execution where far from it. We should also be happy that lots of the technologies and architecture of Wave will start migrating into other Google products soon, as Eric Schmidt alluded to in this interview. Wave was way ahead of its time. It was a solution in search of a problem, a problem that we’ll soon see rear its ugly head in my opinion. Its place in history (not matter how brief) will forever change the way of communication eventually, but not as a stand alone product. But alas this is what Google is known for. The creative destruction that leaves jilted lovers at a Las Vegas alter. I feel for the developers that were left in the lurch with projects and development efforts built around this revolutionary communications platform. Those that us whom invest passion and evangelized about doing things the “Wave” way are also saddened. Most of all I feel sorry for myself. I should not have invested so much time and energy in thinking about the potential of this product. It was nothing more than a product, but I too fell for the siren song of advocacy. Shame on me.
What worries me most about this is how often Google’s track record leads to the same roads of failure. Building community around anything social is not in its DNA. Jaiku(Twitter predecessor) and Dodgeball(Foursquare predecessor are part of a growing list of Google snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Maybe Google should focus on mobile and the utility of search and leave the social to the new kids on the block. But I fear the dogs of war have been unleashed as Vic Gundotra, VP of Engineering, has been tapped to turn the HMS Google toward a social course. I suspect the killing of Wave was partly his idea. There is good reason for it though. As Google stated in its blog post (more like a eulogy) Wave had not gotten the adoption and acceptance they wanted. This was mostly of their own doing, but the time for finger pointing is over and failure is failure. Google Me or whatever the hell they call it better be worth it. This post goes out to Thomas Beverley and the folks at Wave.to makers of the Mr. Ray bot that brought much needed integration with the outside web to Wave. To Alfredo Abambres who build his whole business on Wave and who I was honored to help in the his RITMO virtual Wave conference earlier this year. To Luciano Santa Brigida who got me excited about Wave all over again and shares my vision for wave as a federated protocol for mass real-time communication. All these folks were great and I was glad to meet them (virtually) on this platform.
With Wave now riding off into the sunset I have begun to re-evaluate what I’ve been contributing to these products. I sometimes put so much time and effort into these technologies I forget what they are used for. How much original thought and content have you given Twitter, Buzz, Facebook, Wave, etc? Through these services I have found my voice and started a blog because of them. So I have decided to take a little break from engagement in Buzz (and other social platforms) for a bit. First, I feel a little burn by Wave going the way of FriendFeed. Why invest so much and choose the wrong horse in the race when it’s double or nothing? I’ll focus more on my blogging and my family and less on engaging in the fickleness of the social web. I love Buzz, but I feel that anything or subject worth deeply engaging can be best done from my blogs me.relativeprogress.com or blogs.relativeprogress.com. I’m not leaving forever, but I will be throttling down what I do here for a bit. The closure of Wave has made me look carefully at more open and federated approaches to doing things socially on the web. Posterous and Tumblr are great examples of what I would want from a Google Me. Diaspora and OneSocialWeb are two other example of where I want Google Social to go also, but I fear we will never get there. Hopefully from the ashes of this latest failure will rise the Google Me that will be all things to all people. Given the track record I doubt it. See you all later.