You heard it right! Google Wave, the collaboration/communication platform that was once postulated to be -- among other glorious things -- the Second Coming of e-mail, is getting the ax. In a surprising turn of events, the Internet giant and its team of worker bees have announced they're officially halting development on the tool.
Wave was unveiled last spring at Google I/O in San Francisco. Initially accepted with much enthusiasm, the few that were lucky enough to try it (it was invite-only for quite some time) were able to participate in real time, threaded conversations that could include photos, e-mails, games, etc.:
Google Wave Inbox Snapshot.
Unfortunately, because it was invite-only, being the first to have access to Wave was similar to being the only person with a fax machine. Sure, it's cool, but if you can't actually use it, then what's the point? And so began the Wave invite wars as Google gave each beta tester five or so golden tickets to hand out to their friends.
Companies like Zenbe and Novell scrambled to release solutions similar to what everyone thought would be the next big game changer, but as the year wore on, Wave lost much of its promise and most users were more than happy to return to their traditional inboxes.
Ultimately, it was this lack of staying power that closed the case. Urs Hölzle, the Senior Vice President, Operations & Google Fellow, put it like this:
Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects.
Of course, Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, doesn't appear to be shaken by the decision. In fact, he attempted to put Wave's failure in a positive light:
Our policy is we try things. We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new.
Accordingly, it sounds like the cool features that came along with Wave won't be lost and gone forever.
"...we are taking those technologies and applying them to new technologies that are not announced," continued Schmidt. "We'll get the benefit of Google Wave but it won't be as a separate product."
While some consider Wave to be a particularly embarrassing flop on Google's part, others are talking about what kind of silver lining it may paint--especially for Google's rumored social network, Google Me.
"This is typical Google-like behavior. They aren't shy about killing projects that don't hit their expectations," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "I don't think that users really got it when it came to Wave, but this was a good learning experience for Google. They now know they need to bring a more fully baked product to the market. They also have to clearly articulate why users should jump on board. I don't think this is Google's last run at social networking. There are rumors about a new product -- Google Me -- that looks to be their next shot at this market."
"Social networking is absolutely harder than it looks," added Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "It's not a technical problem as much as a social problem. It's trying to solve a people problem and engineers, by their nature, suck at solving people problems. Google is going to have to address behavioral and social skills to build another service."
Rumors of Google Me started surfacing this summer thanks to Digg founder Kevin Rose and his Twitter account:
Further, Google was recently on the lookout for a "Head of Social," according to GigaOM. Check out part of the job description:
This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it. In Google's view, conceptually, there are two ways to tackle social, each impacting who may be successful in this senior post: 1) building an innovative offering specifically in this area; or 2) developing the capability and integrating social into Google's existing portfolio.
If zero focus on Wave means the release of a stronger social platform, they hey, more power to Google. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and label it a 'Facebook Killer' just yet. After all, haven't we suffered enough embarrassment from the misguided 'e-mail 2.0'?