It was back in November 2009 when I first received my invitation to try out Google Wave, I blogged about it and commented on what I felt needed to happen to make Wave into a great collaboration platform, that could seriously enhance regular e-mail communication. The news today that Google is pulling the plug on Wave didn’t really surprise me because, since my initial blog post, I’ve logged in to my Wave account regularly – only to find that everything has stayed pretty much the same.
There were a couple of feature enhancements that I felt would have made Wave a useful alternative to GMail, but after the initial excitement of inviting a few friends, and then checking for new updates wore off, I soon stopped using it. It was, not just permanently under construction, but like so many ghost housing estates that we now see around the towns of Ireland – it looked like construction had stopped altogether.
One of my initial suggestions was automated playback of Waves. This, in my opinion, would have been a very useful feature. As Waves get longer and more contributors add to them, the process of replaying them from the beginning is tedious and involves a mouse-click for each step of the process.
For me, though, the real killer was the lack of regular e-mail integration. Wave was very “closed”. It was like having the world’s most advanced mobile phone, but you could only contact people with the same brand of phone. I felt at the time, and suggested to the developers, that it should be possible to send a regular e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and for this to appear as a new Wave in the user’s inbox. Similarly it should have been possible to send a regular e-mail from within Wave. I know that a recent addition was that “You can now add any email address to a wave”, but this only sends a Wave invitation, rather than allowing access to the Wave and limited collaboration – like a listserv mailing list, for example.
Quite why Google decided not to include this is unknown to me. Maybe there was/is just such momentum behind the development of GMail, that Google didn’t want to have a competing messaging platform. Alternatively, maybe they just thought that the Wave platform was so good – and by open-sourcing it – that many people would adopt it in place of regular email; however just as I don’t want to carry round an iPhone just to call iPhone users, and a Nokia for everyone else, I don’t want a separate email and collaboration system.
In the BBC article discussing this, Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying “Our policy is we try things. Remember we celebrate our failure.” Maybe that’s the point of Wave – it was an ambitious platform to try new things, but ultimately not a concern to Google if it didn’t work. Perhaps some Wave technology will turn up in other places. It would be very ironic if that place were GMail.