The Official Google Blog has just provided an Update on Google Wave that could be roughly translated as “It’s dead, Jim”. It won’t be developed any further, the team behind Wave will move on to do something productive, and users have until the end of the year to extract their data. Google says: “we will work on tools so that users can easily ‘liberate’ their content from Wave”.
None of which is the least bit surprising: Wave just didn’t attract enough real users.
The only surprising thing about Google Wave was the reception it got at its launch. As Google’s blog post notes: “Developers in the audience stood and cheered. Some even waved their laptops.”
There was an even bigger reaction on Twitter, where my timeline was swamped by an outpouring of Wave Mania. People were falling over themselves to sign up and show how cool they were, even though most of them had nobody to use Wave with; and even if they’d been able to use it, they had no earthly use for it. It was from Google! It was new! It was a technological miracle! It was the future, wasn’t it?
My former colleague at the Guardian, Bobbie Johnson, described it as a geekgasm.
But there’s nothing unusual about Google pushing out flops. We’ve already seen Orkut (it’s big in Brazil), Knol, Google Answers, Google Catalog, Google Lively, Google Squared, Google Viewer, Web Accelerator, Video Player, Google Health, Google Radio, Google Print Ads, the Google Directory (DMOZ) and the bought-in services Jaiku and Dodgeball. Someone less generous than I am might throw in GTalk, Google Checkout, Google Base, Google Buzz, and the awful Google Docs as well.
Do the Pundits of Silicon Valley have a collective brain-fade system that temporarily prevents them from remembering that Google keeps failing to create innovative new products or at least some decent knock-offs of other people’s successes (Facebook, Wikipedia, PayPal, Amazon, Yahoo Answers, Windows Live Messenger, Twitter, FriendFeed etc)?
They seem to assume that if the ultra-smart and very rich Google guys launch something that looks good, well, it can’t possibly be bad. Of course, the reality is that every successful corporation has enjoyed (or otherwise) at least a few flops, including IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and Google. That’s life.
I’m not asking for rational skepticism at product launches -- Silicon Valley is probably too excitable for that -- but a bit less hysteria might be nice.
Update: Danny Sullivan, founder of Search Engine Land, has posted Let’s Celebrate Google’s Biggest Failures! His list includes SearchWiki, Google Notebook, and Google Page Creator, which I'd missed.