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Wed, Aug. 4th, 2010, 11:13 pm
The "Failure" of Google Wave

Apparently Google will be shutting down Wave by around the end of this year citing a lack of adoption. More details are available at the Google Blog: Update on Google Wave.

I believe whole-heartedly that the Internet will be a worse place once this is gone. I believe that Google Wave is the only application to ever come close to getting real-time text collaboration and communication right. As such, it is the best text communication form that exists today, and it won't exist this time next year.

It had a lot of problems. The worst of its problems being that a lot of people got into the beta and didn't treat it that way. They saw a missing feature and simply complained and wrote it off rather than filing a bug or anything. Since almost everybody got in and never took the time to explore the feature set they left with a strange impression of what it could do that missed about half of the functionality. A lot of these hidden features have better and more up-front access points these days and most of the editing features are in a menu rather than hidden behind hot keys.

The second biggest problem it had was also its biggest strength: It ran in the browser. A lot of people's browsers just couldn't handle it. I'm not sure who's fault this is exactly, but I'm upset at how hard this affected it. The same people that would often complain that they wanted a "faster desktop client" version are also the ones that it never occurred to just install Google Chrome and run it that way. It is possible to have multiple browsers installed and to dedicate them to different tasks rather than having one-hundred tabs open and wondering why Wave is slow.

I'm not blaming anybody that this particular problem hit, because it was also Wave's fault, but you didn't give much either. The average computer user rarely does.

I do know that when it's gone that the things I used Wave for simply have no replacements. Most of the other services are replaceable by their other forms. If Facebook disappeared, I'd go back to any of the other blog services and Flickr. If all of the instant messaging services disappeared, I'd use email.

The next time I want to have a conversation with people what will I be stuck with?

Facebook or forums which have never effectively evolved past a flat inline view requiring all sorts of strange user-hacks to actually carry on a conversation with the person that you're talking to. If you don't know what I mean, then you've never read a reply with four or five "@blare," "@dudeman5," etc.

Meebo or, even worse, desktop clients where everything has to be sequential and, if nobody screws up, we may individually have the logs.

Usually when these conversations become sufficiently complicated everything reverts back to email. Email wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the people with horrible netiquette and that most clients force some weird hybrid HTML upon the world with little option. The average style for inline comments is inconsistent at best and often entirely unreadable if you have a different client from the person that read it. Most people also leave an increasing number of crap on the bottom of the email that modern clients have learned to cleverly hide, but not cleverly stop them from wasting space on the Internet.

This, ultimately, may be why Wave failed. The format it imposed worked well rather than working the way people wanted it to. The average Internet user has no conception of the standards that actually make things operate more smoothly. They have no understanding that the way smartphones top-post is a sign of poor engineering, not adherence to "corporate standards."

The consequence of this is that a great collaborative system is going away. Part of me wishes that this thing had come out of the corners of the Internet where highly technical people tend to reside first. Maybe if they'd picked the right communities like the online role-playing communities and such. If nobody had ever heard of it, I'd at least still have it. The sort of people that made it wouldn't be shutting it down based on adoption problems and other such nonsense.

Wed, Jan. 26th, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC)
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