Lessons learned from Google Wave failure

Lessons learned from Google Wave failure

Summary: There was lots of promise -- Email is an ancient technology, and is due for a refresh. Google Wave promised to change the way we communicate, and would eventually replace Email.


There was lots of promise -- Email is an ancient technology, and is due for a refresh. Google Wave promised to change the way we communicate, and would eventually replace Email. Unfortunately, Google decided to pull the plug on the project before it accomplished that goal.

So what should be learned from Google Wave? I think there are lots of great lessons that we can take away from the closure:

1) Just because you're a Google project, it doesn't mean you are guaranteed success Just because Google has massive reach, it doesn't mean that products they release immediate hits. Google often releases products that don't go anywhere -- most of the time they realize that, and relatively quickly pull the plug.

In reality, there are only a handful of services that Google has really nailed: Google Search, Gmail, Google Voice, Google Analytics, Google Chrome, Android and Google Maps are good examples. The Google graveyard includes services like Lively, Google Answers, Google Phone Store, and many more.

2) Buzz around a product doesn't equal success Google wave had serious buzz throughout it's life at points -- but that didn't translate into die-hard users. The same invite-only structure that made Gmail a success didn't have much of an effect on Google Wave -- those who did find an invite often had bad first impressions -- it was buggy, and was harder to use than Gmail.

I had seen several times on Twitter when Google Wave was trending -- lots of people knew about the service, and had accounts, but nobody loved it enough to stick with it. Users have short attention spans.

3) If it works, don't assume people want to fix it Email works great -- really, it does. Everybody knows how to use it, and it's easy to explain to someone that doesn't. Google Wave was a tool that could technically be used for so many different purposes that it is impossible to explain. If you can't explain it in a short sentence, it's too complicated for the people that would make the product a success.

People know Email, and don't see any reason to swap it out for something different. It's a mistake to assume otherwise.

Google's intentions with Wave were great, unfortunately, it was a really tough sell. Who knows, if someone picks up the open source project and runs with it, perhaps it can still be a game changer, but I'm thinking it will go down the same path as Jaiku -- another one of Google's abandoned projects.

Topics: Collaboration, Google

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  • You hit the nail on the head. I got an invite, tried to use Wave, and never

    figured it out. But, the best innovators, do not let failure bother them. You can bet inside of Google, the Wave team will be treated like heroes, and given other projects.
  • Wave team will be fired

    What a waste of shareholders $
    Next topic
    • RE: Lessons learned from Google Wave failure

      @hubivedder Give that about three people control there entire company still an run it, it there money to wast. An any good shareholder knows that sometime you got to take few risks with buying shares, some will come through with big gains an some will loose you money, either way unless you buy you still lose.
    • ZD's spinning machine is amazing

      When MSFT pulled a Kin, it's OMG the demise of the evil empire "Fire Ballmer, NOW!!" and blah blah blah.

      When GOOG pulled a similar WAVE, well, well, well, it's encouraging that the "(pretend) not to do evil" has learned a valuable lesson. What a great CEO Schmidt is that he cheers for own failure.
      • RE: Lessons learned from Google Wave failure

        @LBiege Never thought about that, but your correct. Double standards are quite common here.
  • You guys just hate google

    Google guys are the best and when they see that a product is failing they act quickly. This just goes to show how good the really are.
  • Google were too ambitious

    Wave was a good product, but they failed to deliver it properly. There are 3 reasons it failed, at-least for me:

    Slow roll-out plus over-hype meant early adopters were given a service they couldn't use to communicate. These users soon stop opening-up Wave. Users who get their account in later batches arrive with a bunch of friends (yay!) but these friends have since stopped checking their Wave accounts.

    No auto-notification means waves could go for weeks without being read. Informing someone you've sent them a wave via mail is adopted briefly before someone has a reality check and simply sends the information in an email instead.

    Wave was good, but it meant using the wave client or some strange extension. I communicate through my mail client. I open it, I communicate, I close it. If there was wave support in default mail clients (Windows live mail/Outlook, Mail on the mac, or even Google's own gMail client!) then people would be more likely to send a wave in preference to a mail.

    Of-course, Google can't rely on Microsoft and Apple putting wave support in their communication clients. Thus, until these three electronic superpowers sit down and play nice, I doubt we'll see a communication medium replacing email. Microsoft might have enough clout, but they'd try and make it proprietary, so it'd fail. Apple would make it open, but as they only hold serious sway in the mobile market anything they'd develop would probably be targeted there and so not be a full email replacement.
  • Wave was an ideal product, but had lack of focus, rocky release

    I love Wave and used it a bit.

    It was close to ideal for real time collaboration, and project organization. I used it for group travel planning. But it had a lack of focus, or easily explainable goal, as has been pointed out.

    It should have released with automatic email notification of Wave updates (rather than being a hard to add applet that came later). Wave was also a bit glitchy, and had a limited array of applets with little documentation on how to find or use them.

    I don't think they ever finished the Wave that allowed you to make configuration changes to your Wave account. That was just stupid.

    Unfortunately Google didn't unleash appropriate resources, or stick with it long enough, to get Wave to change the world. But they will be using the same great technologies in future more narrowly targeted products.
  • RE: Lessons learned from Google Wave failure

    they just need to advertise it more ,they need to hire people who use it for some interesting topics and post that in public forums
  • RE: Lessons learned from Google Wave failure

    At least for a Chrome browser there is a simple add-on which shows that you have a Wave with unread Blip, so this wasn't a reason of Wave failure. I used Wave from the first days until now; unfortunately lately there was almost no traffic there. I think that's right: Wave is too powerful, too multi-purpose, and too complicated tool to succeed.