Google Wave's hype has already gone

The hype surrounding Google Wave has completely died off, just four months after the product was launched to the general public. What's next for Google's new baby?
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor
Renai LeMay

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.

These sentiments from ClickZ's Sean Carton pretty much sum up the way many people feel about Google Wave at the moment:

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?

Actually, we know that also. ZDNet.com.au sent our intern Colin Ho out to ask the general public about Google Wave recently. Most people had never even heard of 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.

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