My Post Mortem On Google Wave

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.

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What Will Google Me Be?

Since there is all this spectulation about Google Me I feel it only fair that I bore you with my worthless predictions.  So, what is Google Me? Despite what hern Schimit may say, it’s Google’s attempt to build a Facebook-like corral around its many properties. In essense it’s Google continued attempts (perhaps the final attempt) to build social into it’s services. Not that it isn’t there already, but to the fickle ‘geek-narati’ it sucks. Social anything is a fickle bedfellow.  Let’s take some of these descret pieces and construct the sum of there parts. Piece one: Buzz. First off I love buzz.  It has brought me into this social networking world, so much so that I have a Twitter account and two blogs (things I did not possess prior).  Without it I just would be an outside observer of this whole social network trend. It does have it’s problems, but so does Twitter and Facebook. Despite what the official Google line is on where the idea came from for Buzz, the aquistion of Jaiku was a pretty smart investment.  For those of you that don’t know Jaiku, according to Wikipedia: “Jaiku was a social networking, micro-blogging and lifestreaming service comparable to Twitter” if not better than Twitter back in the day. This was the predecessor to Google Buzz, though no one from Google knows or acknowledges the existence of Jaiku’s engine in code base, I am sure some of the engineers from Jaiku were involved.  Anyway, allow me to introduce you to your Google Me wall. The multimedia rich nature of the Buzz stream makes it perfect for the function as your wall. Now just enable groups like Friendfeed use to which aide in dealing with the increasing noise and we’re 90% there.  Piece two: chat.  Roll it into the Google Me profile pages. Done.  Next, Blogger, Orkut and iGoogle. First a rant about iGoogle, its 2010 — what the hell is anyone doing using a portal?  Anyway, kill off iGoogle, revamp Orkut so it doesn’t suck then roll it into Google Profiles. Give power users the option to host blog-like home pages as an extension of the Me profile page. Blogger while a capable CMS is starting to show its age. To recapture some of its former glory simply turn it into Posterous or Tumblr.  Better yet open it up some more – platform it.

Gaming

Google is in talks with Zynga and other social gaming developers according to Wall Street Journal. Is Google building a gaming platform first?  I don’t know. What would be really cool is if they also talked to OnLive too. What better way to scale OnLive then with Googles massive server infrastructure. They also acquired Labpixies to help tighten up the Google API’s for gadgets and start building games in-house for a social network too. So one can speculate that this is the ultimate hook to get folks to try it.  However, simply slapping Farmville and Solitaire on this platform won’t make a dent in Facebook, but maybe a Quake or Halo clone (for dudes) or smaller more causal games may do it. I am torn by this one though. Games are kind of gimmicky at best and is not the underlining reason Facebook has 500 million users.  This is a very important piece, but I sure hope this isn’t a linchpin of Google Me else the brains at the Goog have read this one wrong. Google builds platforms so I predict that a very important aspect of Google Me will be a cloud based gaming platform spanning the spectrum from social to first-person shooters. Wishful thinking I know, but a brilliant move if it comes to past.

The Wave component

I am bullish on wave as most of you know, so including them in my prediction is typical coming from me. However, short of the architecture, I see no need to include them in Google Me today. I fear Wave is destine for the Enterprise and corporate obscurity. It is a bit to heavy as a commenting and micro-blogging engine. Many of its componets will be included in the overall communications platform strategy, but as for bringing it into a social network — I’m thinking never.

YouTube and Google TV

It’s the largest spot on the net for video. Hooking it into Google Me is a no-brainer. They have done a descent job of “socializing it”, but it must do more. How about some exclusive content? Google TV, when it is deployed in its final form, will be an excellent resource for sharing what you are watching in real-time. Combine this with commenting ala Buzz (Your Google Me wall) and you have built something sticky. Now do the Google open thing and allow people on Hulu, NetFlix, Vimeo, etc. to do the same and they have a high horse from which to preach openness.

The Picture Piece: Picasa

I mean everyone who has a social network has a photo sharing mechanism. However, they will need to remain open to other photo sharing sites like Flickr. I’m biased because I love Flickr.

Social Search

This is the area where Google should fear nothing from Facebook. So to maintain this hegomony they need to unleash its power on the as yet defined Google Me community. Aarvark, Sidewiki and Knol (I don’t think it died just absorbed or transformed) are all part of those data signals I preach about when it comes to real-time data mining. What all these disjointed services have in common are that there chief functions revolve around social. Aardvark takes an approach to search that I believe Facebook and Quora are taking. If you read Aardvark’s paper about building a Large Scale Social Search Engine they are essentially using advanced AI coupled with the Social Graph to route questions to the persons in your graph who might be able to answer it for you. This is probably not why Google bought them unfortunately. They want the AI talent. Let’s hope they allow Aardvark to become part of “Me”.  It’s a great service that will add much value to the social effort. Then there is Google’s mysterous investment in Recorded Future (going dutch with the CIA). What is intriging about this is that the company spiders and parses web traffic and pages in real-time to perform spatial, temporal and sentiment analysis on the data. This would be a power weapon to determine relevancy based on a social graph and real-time web traffic such as status messages.  A Q & A engine at scale using semantic data would be an extremely power supplement to Google’s already superb search API. That builds a Knol socially, semantically and organically. I don’t think we have seen the last of Knol.  Prediction: You’ll be able to ask natural-language questions of your social graph in Google Me and get relevant answers from both your “Friends” and the Google Algorithm with relevant ads served on the side. All this possible because Google has accumulated (or acquired) all the verticals to bring you the relevant answers.

Mobile

Android will be just as an important component of Google Me as Search and Games. Why? Because it is the edge point platform of the future. Performing real-time to spatial analysis requires location-aware applications on a platform that can do so. There will soon be millions of Android phones most with Google services on them. That is a heck of a way to lure users in. Build vertical market that starts with an addictive social network, combined with addictive games and search utility where ever you go. This is the nuclear option that no other social network competitor  has, a hardware platform to ensnare users. Prediction: Google Me will be more mobile focused than anything else out there.

Windcard: Music and all of the above

Remember Simplify Media?  When Android Gingerbread launches this fall it will come with a cloud-base iTunes competitor. This will roll right into Google Music which is rumored to be out this fall. Google Me could be the digital storage cloud we put our media that is accessed from every web-based device we own. Our own dataspace owned and operated by Google.

Bring it all together and what do you get? Google Me will be your piece of cyberspace where you store and have access to at all times every piece of media, every message, contact and connection where ever you are. It will be powerful, device agnostic, social and ubiquitous.  That’s the play and going to be the pitch. I haven’t even gotten to Google Apps and Gmail. Google want to manage your dataspace and that will begin this fall.  Stay tuned….

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The Fickleness of Social

Over the past couple days I have started to see an slight exodus of hearts and minds from Buzz users as life, its stresses and noise take time away from some folks engaging. I also see more and more of the folks I follow pimp other social networks like Miio, the new social messaging darling, as well. Some followers such as @Alfredo Abambres and @Larry Anderson are toning down their Buzz interactions altogether. The common thread among their reasoning, noise. Google stumbled out of the gate with Buzz and appeared to be getting its groove back, but a strange thing happen on the way to building this Gmail-only echo chamber. The rest of the web caught up and started to seduced the flock. Now I ain’t going anywhere anytime soon because I still find Buzz compelling and engaging, even if the noise is starting to make things a bit unbearable. @Alfredo Abambres and @Larry Anderson both brought valid concerns about trying to wade through the often flood of Google Reader post (I’m guilty of that too) and the constant unsolicited, unidentifiable followers (or Brad Pitt). They haven’t solved that problem obviously. And where is our curation by way of lists or groups?  I can’t do Larry’s blog post justice so check out a more detailed reasoning of why he is cutting back on Buzz.  Poor @Alfredo Abambres missed a vital communicate with one of his flock buried under all the junk. While an @ mention would have solved that problem, the lack of groups is puzzling. I can at least do some kind of curating in Twitter via lists. Hell even the upstart Miio can do this. There is little (or no intuitive) method of segregating groups of friends on Buzz. This is even stranger being that smart people within Google have described this very social norm of having different groups of friends online and offline in real-life (remember that). Paul, are you talking to the Google Buzz team?

This brings me to my overall point about all things “social”.  Social networks are faddish at best and have a tendency to be cliquey like real life. Human beings have a nasty habit of acting out its very nature.  Gone are the days of having the time to get the launch of a new social service right. No you see if you screw the pooch out of the gate and don’t iterate with one update a week your toast. Social platforms are filled with the fickle that want it to work now. Buzz was sticky at first then it became work for most of us. A constant stream of moving comments that make it hard to keep up (and I hate it when I am making a damn comment and the stream updates). As the amount of people increase their presence on Buzz the noise (and spam) increases are directly proportional. Lost in the stream were relevant comments of some importance that we don’t necessarily get in our inbox. Maybe this is simply a growing pain of an infant service. Maybe it’s early adopter leaving for something new perhaps. If the Google Buzz team doesn’t start addressing the noise issue soon you will see a lot more Alfredo’s and Larry’s leaving the service.

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Google Wave Goes Retro

Last night I had beta-testing session with some fellow Google Buzzers of Wavelook. It’s a Microsoft Outlook plugin that bring the power of Google Wave to the inbox, something Google has yet to do in a meaningful way. Side note: I have been told via unofficial Google channels that my Holy Trinity (a Wave, Buzz and Gmail nexus) is in the works. In the meanwhile, the expandability of the API’s have given enterprising developers the ability to build a better Wave interface.

Wavelook is pretty easy to installed and while I hate Outlook I felt it was duty to endure for the sake of beta-testing. I was accompanied by @Tom Awtry and @Alfredo Abambres in this experiment and I have to say it was pretty phenomenal. Once installed simply add a Wave account as an inbox or as part of a unified inbox. Wavelook has the all to familiar Outlook look and fell. I found it actually not as easy to use at first as Wave (which is a testament to the learning curve) and waves with lots of blips looked just as messy and confusing as they do in the Google Wave client.

However, as new waves came in or as waves got updated I could see them go bold in the inbox. It felt very comfortable like how email should be. When at work, I get emails from people all the time and occasionally I would like to strike up a chat session. That use case became very apparent as I messed around with this. With the waves themselves I can see real-time typing as I interacted with all the participants. I could even see attachments other wave participants post, although I could not attach any files from Outlook. I have been promised by Wavelook’s developers themselves that the feature is coming soon.  And developer relations is top notch with someone named Matt promising to be at our beck and call if we have any issues.

Now for those of you that still hate wave this may not be a big deal, but for the rest of us wave fanatics this may start moving the use of wave to the main stream. There are still people that use desktop email clients (I know those people are weird). Lots of corporate IT enterprises use Outlook religiously. If wave federation starts becoming a reality this might be the familiar front end that boosts wave adoption, possibly in the enterprise. Or maybe I just a dreamer? Either way this blast from the past has me bullish again on wave.

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