Google Waves Goodbye

wave logoGoogle waves goodbye to Google Wave – a technical note on the Official Google Blog by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Operations & Google Fellow officially declares Google Wave as uhhh  …  not dead   …  just discontinued.

…. despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.

The timing was right, this same day  NPD confirmed what Nielsen and others were saying, Google Android had taken the lead in smartphone sales in the US – wresting the title from RIM who just announced their new Torch. So as you can see there is a lot more than Net Neutrality going on and so the retiring of Google Wave means 4 things:
1)Catching Twitter and Facebook is going to be much more difficult than any combination of  Google Wave, Google Buzz, iGoogle, Orkut, and other social networking Google Forays might be able to  accomplish just by making a Google Appearance. All of these social networking “experiences” have been characterized  by Google  just tossing the new freebie out onto the Web to an unsuspecting public and letting people discover them in virtual adhoc fashion. This is the Open Source variation  of Fire – Ready, Aim.

Yet social networking is vital to Google because a)more and more discovery, search,  and ratings are being done on Facebook, LinkedIn,  Twitter and other social Web media. And they are getting eyeballs and attention to match or exceed Google’s own. And both  Facebook and Twitter will soon have many and  exclusive ads taking big chunks of revenues from the Google ad stream.  Worse – businesses large and small are starting to congregate on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter not any Google Property but You Tube.
2)Delivering the type of instant character by character messaging interaction envisioned by Google Wave is very hard to do technically and specifically in a “net neutral” environ. So eventually Google is going to have to come to terms with the contradiction that operation of its services may require a)abandoning net neutrality in order to deliver in a timely fashion services/experiences  that customers are demanding or b)having to charge for premium levels of service and features which also will tax Google’s loyalty to net neutrality as Google’s own cost of delivery rises.
3)The drag and drop plus instant messaging experience of Google Wave will have to morph with the various media being delivered and the UI-User Interface experience expected by customers.  Light and easy and multi-touch and multi-input are changing the equation of man-computing interaction at a very rapid pace that is outrunning  not just PC’s  menus and iconbars; but also  Flash  cross platform programmable designs, animations, and rich media; plus the new  darling:”Open   HTML5″ which [HORRORS]is already  obsolete and [HORRORS AGAIN]permeated with  hardware platform specific implementations and [HORRORS YET AGAIN]growing with browser specific versions while Steve and Steve tell the World to embrace their versions of “Open HTML5”. The development world has seen this Chuckie Horror story of Killing Open with Proprietary “Defacto Standard” Extensions too many times over. So the great ideas of Google Wave will have to expand and change into a broader UI context that will have many powerful, proprietary advocates. And you thought Net Neutrality was in danger. Google has to recognize it has ambiguous if not conflicting self-interests at stake here.
4)”Reculer pour sauter mieux” – step back in order to leap forward better is very hard to do. How Urs Hölzle and the Google Staff manage the redirected Google Wave team, aspirations and efforts will say a lot about how well Google will be able to innovate in the market going fast forward right now. Redmond has proved to have Great Waves of Internecine Warfare that has allowed the company to squander mindshare and brand position in the past ten years such that Redmond is now coming from behind in UI, mobile and non-silo-ed IT computing systems and services. Meanwhile Cupertino is run by a “magical dictator”  who has a penchant for getting a huge and brilliant conceptually driven lead only to blow it in the final execution. Given the change in smartphone marketshare, Apple’s Steve Jobs may be doing it again.
So in saying Goodbye to Google Wave, the Google team must recognize it is not just doing a poker-smart fold; but also has  got a Google Wave of new problems to  ride through.