ZDNet.com.au news editor Renai LeMay (Credit: CBS Interactive)
commentary Has it really only been four months since Google opened Wave to the public, inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to sign up? It feels like a lot longer.
That's because it only took half that time for the monumental
amount of hype around Google Wave — which had steadily built over
the previous six months like a snowball rolling down a massive
internet slope — to dissipate as early adopters realised they
couldn't figure out just what Google Wave was supposed to be used for.
I desperately want to use Wave for something useful ... But for
the life of me I can't figure out what I'd do with it in a
real-world situation. Maybe I just don't 'get it' (which could be
entirely possible), but Google needs to do a much better job
providing scenarios for us dimwits who don't have time to
experiment with new software.
Most of my contacts on Twitter are early adopters of technology
located in Australia — they typically work in either the technology
or media sectors.
It is revealing that even this community, when quizzed with a
quick straw poll this morning, generally confessed they only logged into
Google Wave occasionally, and couldn't really figure it
out. If even early adopters are confused about Google Wave, how
must the general public see it?
Kind of disappointing for the search giant — which has built its Apple-like reputation on launching awesome products that people will kill to get invites for. Think Gmail when it first launched. Or even Google Chrome, which is steadily gaining browser share. Or the Android mobile platform.
But, it's not all bad news for Google.
Some of my followers are using Wave intensely, daily, to
collaborate internally on software development projects, or just to
aid in jointly creating documents.
And admittedly, much of Google's own focus in releasing Wave for
public consumption so early has been to court developers to start
building applications that interact with the application
programming interfaces that Google has published for Wave.
Much of Google's own focus in releasing Wave for public consumption so early has been to court developers
To this end, the search giant has had several members of its
Sydney-based Wave team on a global tour of, as the Google Wave
Developer Blog puts it, "15 days, eight countries and zillions of
developers", to educate the coding masses about how they can take
advantage of the newest Google baby.
As the blog makes clear, the Wave team has had some early wins.
For example, the Global Youth Panel has requested 1000 Wave
accounts to debate climate change. It would be fascinating to see
how effective Wave is as a tool to aid with that kind of mass debate.
In addition, as I noted in October, the ideas behind Google Wave are sound. We do need to move on from email to better and more integrated communications platforms. The continual rise of social networking giant Twitter (and its corporate sibling, Yammer) clearly demonstrates this.
But by and large Google Wave has so far failed to address this need. It has currently entered what Gartner
terms "the Trough of Disillusionment", the stage of the IT analyst
firm's famous Hype Cycle characterised by technologies failing to
meet expectations and becoming unfashionable.
The big question for Google Wave is whether the technology
will achieve sufficiently widespread adoption to ensure slow but
steady growth and improvement in the product, or whether it will
steadily turn downhill and be forgotten by history entirely.