Lessons from Google Wave failure

Lessons from Google Wave failure

Summary: If you're going it alone you better have a business model. Or have something truly innovative. Even if you're ginormous.

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TOPICS: Google, CXO
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If you're going it alone you better have a business model. Or have something truly innovative. Even if you're ginormous.

(This Google tribute to Leonardo DaVinci ran on its own home page early in the 2000s.)

There are a lot of lessons there for Google, which announced the failure of Google Wave on its blog yesterday. Despite the efforts of 6,000 developers and 100,000 users, it never came out of beta.

As Ina Fried and Josh Lowensohn recounted at CNET, Google has failed before. Dodgeball, Jaiku, Notebook, Lively, Hello and Answers are just some of the projects that it has shuttered after announcing them to the media.

But let's parse that first paragraph again:

  • Going It Alone -- An individual or small group going it alone is courageous. A behemoth going it alone is suspicious. Without allies, without external support, a Google project run by Google alone is in trouble.
  • Business Model -- Google has a tendency of going with cool stuff first and worrying about how the money will come back later. That's how it bought Blogger and YouTube. That leads to trouble.
  • Truly Innovative -- Wave sounded innovative, but it really just combined a lot of services that already existed. Was it a service or a user interface -- I was never certain.
  • Ginormous -- Google is huge, humongous, enormous, the 800-pound gorilla. It bought fiber when it was dirt cheap, it innovated on server farms, it focused like a laser on electricity costs, it became the low-cost producer of all Internet services. But that also put a target on its back.

Contrast the failures with successes like Google Code and Google Android. Both have lots of friends. Both have real hardware business models. In both cases Google followed the wave, rather than trying to create it. That's what big companies do.

You can argue that in all this Google is just a tech venture capitalist, that the success of Android excuses the failure of Wave and the others. You can also argue that Google has learned to make lemonade from its lemons, like Blogger and YouTube, so why should it change?

I say it's because Google has a target on its back. When a kitten falls it's cute. When an elephant falls a lot of things get trampled, and their friends don't like it.

I'm not calling for wholesale changes here. But before announcing any project to the world the company needs to know it's putting its global reputation on the line. Such announcements are news, a big Biden deal.

Until you know what a project is about, or until you really need to tell people, keep it to yourself. It's less embarrassing.

Topics: Google, CXO

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55 comments
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  • Style points for trying, though

    Too many companies are too scared of failures to even try. Numbers of failures reflects that Google has a can-do culture where risk taking is not career inhibiting.

    Kudos for that!

    Now Google should sit down with partners and draw design a real standard for something which could incrementally grow into something like Wave.
    honeymonster
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @honeymonster

      Isn't that wave federation?
      http://www.waveprotocol.org/
      sgdryer
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @honeymonster, right on! We only learn from failures. Kudos to Google for knowing when to shut it down too. Lot's of companies just keep pouring cash into a bad product because they are too proud to say it's over.

      For this guy to say they should have "kept it to themselves" until they were sure it would work is just ludicrous and obvious he knows nothing about running a software product. How would they know its a failure unless they had users? 100,000 users is pretty good by most standards.
      johnaaaaaaaaa6
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @honeymonster - well said, agree totally.
      It's interesting to read this article "The Wrong Stuff : Error Message: Google Research Director Peter Norvig on Being Wrong" http://goo.gl/rbjE
      (BTW, an argument that Google did not innovate with Android is laughable)
      vkelman
  • What have you done?

    What have you done worthwhile that makes you comment on Google's failure? Have you created something that helped people? You pseudo journalists are the ones who create hype out of nothing and then report with fancy titles when something fails.
    kodeonline
    • RE: What have you done?

      @kodeonline

      Yea, I agree with you. Google didn't become as big as they are by following, they're innovations are a huge part of their success. Some of their innovations are a hit, some flop...just a matter of time before the next hit.
      Scratchi
      • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

        @Scratchi
        Absolutely agree with you. I read my daily bulletin of this person and almost everytime disagreed.
        This time I want to express myself.

        What a wrong idea: let the others innovate, let them create, and if it works I'll do the same.
        What a poor way of thinking. Jumping on the bus where the others are going on too (only it it's already going on!).
        If you want th be a REALLY good <person/creative/company/anything> you MUST to try knowing that it can works and be accepted or not and it will be shut down and think on another thing, or at least study it and give it "another turn of nut" as Buzz, do you hear about it?

        C'mon! Flat minded! When you're small a bad hit could hurt or kill your business but when you grow up you can afford a slamp. Ok, Google is big enough to resist the slapm of not-accepted ideas and even reports like this one!

        Keep going on Google.
        nanomartin
      • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

        @nanomartin It's good to see you. Don't be so reluctant to speak up next time -- especially when we disagree.

        Blog posts are the start of a discussion. They are never the final word. I know mine aren't anyway.
        DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

        @Scratchi uh.... You guys really think Google hit the innovative button with wave?

        http://drop.io/

        Please crawl out of your "Google is the shizz" dungeon.

        Google is being a hack with some totally redundant rip offs. Chrome OS will fall too.
        prof.ebral
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @kodeonline Although the journalists dnt need to do anything useful in terms of technology, they at least should learn to hold their tongue when they dnt understand what it takes to build complex apps or devices. For example, Windows Vista was not as bad as it was portrayed by media and the iPad is not as great as portrayed as media/reviews. Since they don't know the real 'technology' in depth, they should not write anything judgmental ('Google wave is Failure'). Everything has it's evolution cycle, after all human beings evolved too.
      sandeeppolisetty
    • I write

      @kodeonline If no one is allowed to criticize anyone until they've done as much as the person they're criticizing, this would be a very boring world. All I've done is cover technology for nearly 30 years.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

        @DanaBlankenhorn
        Sorry if I came out rude. I'm not saying that we shouldn't critic some ones work. But at least we should take time to do a bit of research before reporting. Sorry to say that the reporting done by the so called tech journalists is nothing but shame.
        kodeonline
  • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

    It's a real shame. The real-time multi-user apps supported by wave have a great future. We have a Google Wave travel-planner called "Travel WithMe", and people love the real-time experience.

    Sensing that wave might not be going places, we've put it on facebook now as well, but still with Google Wave's realtime features. It's at apps.facebook.com/travel-withme.
    AndrewSittermann
  • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

    Google Wave looked fun, but I had a hard time finding a practical use for it... no matter : in evolution, you have to expect some dead ends.

    What about Google's Project 10^100 ? I hear a lot of silence...
    bart.viaene
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @bart.viaene@...

      Google's Project Google? lol.
      hito_kiri
  • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

    Blankenhorn wrote, "In both cases Google followed the wave, rather than trying to create it. That?s what big companies do."

    What a load of CRAP! This guy is a moron.
    kenaaa2
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @ken@... Yep, a guy called Dana ...
      anplymoth
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @ken@... I think your missing his point.
      ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: Lessons from Google Wave failure

      @ken@... The major criticism leveled by many against Google Code and Google Android is that they did not innovate. You're not calling Steve Jobs crap, are you? He's like the Randolph Scott of high tech.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • Strangely Flawed

    I attended IO last year, and was amazed by the features. When I tried it myself, it looked completely different. Google Wave has a lot of nice features, organized ...no, disorganized in a truly ugly interface. All it needed was some polish, but all it got was some more tech, and then some more tech. A Ferrari engine in a Taurus chassis, is not a Ferrari.
    anplymoth