Just over a year after launching it in beta at the company’s developer conference, Google has decided to shut down Wave, the real-time collaboration tool that was designed to be a cross between instant messaging, group chat and email. In a blog post, Senior VP of Operations Urs Hölzle said that while the company had high hopes for the product, and despite the fact that it had “numerous loyal fans,” Google was cancelling any further development of the feature, which the Google executive admitted “has not seen the user adoption we would have liked.”
The original vision for Wave, as described by developer Lars Rasmussen in the Google blog post that launched the new service last May, was to take existing methods of digital communication and collaboration such as instant messaging, chat, email and wikis and blend them all into a single product. (Rasmussen and his brother Jens were the original developers behind what became Google Maps, after the search giant bought their company, Where 2 Tech.) The central idea, he said, was to design “a communications system that took advantage of computers’ current abilities, rather than imitating non-electronic forms.” A “wave” was described as “equal parts conversation and document.”
But despite the power of the software, which allowed users to embed videos, graphics, audio files and other content into a message — and even allowed them to see others typing responses in real time — users did not take to the new service, perhaps in part because it was confusing. Was it for chat? For working on documents? For sharing files? In his blog post announcing the death of the product, even Holzle admits that Google “wasn’t quite sure how users would respond to this radically different kind of communication.” As it turns out, most of them responded with indifference or even outright antipathy, although there were some prominent supporters. There was also some confusion and overlap when Google launched Buzz, which had many similar features to Wave.
Holzle said that some of the technology developed for Wave would make its way into other Google products and services. Real-time typing has already become part of Google Docs, the company’s existing collaboration tool, while the ability to drag-and-drop media files into a message was recently added to Gmail.
Here’s the promotional video that Google produced for Google Wave:
Related content from GigaOM pro (sub req’d): Google Wave Explained