It’s official: Google Wave is dead. Yesterday Google announced that, due to poor user adoption, the company will no longer develop Wave as a standalone platform.
I was one of those guys that got really excited about Wave. I watched the entire 80-minute keynote twice, and skipped through it many more times after that. As my roommates and I huddled around my laptop and watched Lars Rasmussen and Stephanie Hannon plan out their shopping trip in Wave, we excitedly talked about our hopes that Wave would significantly change the way we communicated online forever. “Email will never be the same!” we cried. “Finally, instant messaging works like an actual conversation!” And best of all, it was open source! To us, Google Wave was an internet communication Messiah that we didn’t know we needed until we saw it.
I signed up for the beta the second I knew that they were offering sign-ups. I remember when people first started getting access to the site, and everyone (including me) would scour forums and blogs for people passing out invites. “Invitations will not be sent immediately,” Google said. “We have a lot of stamps to lick.” Oh, how I wished they would like faster! I hated that feeling of missing out on all of the fun!
But when my invitation finally did arrive, and I loaded the Wave dashboard for the first time, I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. Since I was the first out of my friends to have access to the beta, my first task was inviting my friends, but even when I had people to communicate and collaborate with, we still really didn’t know what to do. We came up with a few use-cases, like creating a list of movies we wanted to watch on movie night and editing class notes, but nothing more creative than that. And, because the site was horribly slow and buggy at this time, collaborating on our movies and notes was more of a chore than anything else.
Still I had high hopes for Wave. Google helped us out by showing us ways in which Wave could be used, and I was able to convince those in two of my group projects to use it for our project. But as time passed, I slowly started to dread logging into buggy Wave in order to edit a document, and started moving back to my old ways of doing things. Pretty soon Wave became little more than an occasional thought. And not just in my mind; many others stopped using the service because they too couldn’t figure out what it was all about. So Wave began to slowly die.
And it’s sad; I really wanted it to catch on. It had so much potential–real-time instant messaging, automatic spelling correction (at least according to the demo…I never had the opportunity to see it in action), superb collaborative tools, even on-the-fly language translation. But it was too confusing, too slow, and too buggy to be of any real use. The fact that it was invite-only for the longest time didn’t help things much, either.
I feel sorry for Lars and Stephanie. This was their baby, their masterpiece. A year ago people were applauding them for revitalizing the world of internet communication. And now their brainchild is being scrapped. I wonder what it must feel like, to have worked passionately for years on a project you thought would change the world, and then see that project die? It must feel absolutely horrible.
I also feel sorry for those who put a great deal of faith in Wave. Those who actually understood its usefulness and used it correctly. Those people like Gina Trapani, who wrote an entire book on Google Wave, using Wave itself to help her write the book. In a recent interview, Gina says that she uses Wave on a daily basis, and that Google’s decision has made her guide into a history book. She invested a lot into this, and now it’s all for nothing.
And I feel sorry for me. Because even though I stopped using the service, I still had hoped that one day I would understand how to use it the right way, and that it might become an invaluable tool to me. Now that day will never come.
So long, Wave. You will be missed.