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December 14, 2009


Terminal Wave: The Google Wave Failure

by Anthony Verre

Google Wave: The Most Hyped Disappointment of the Year

Google Wave: A Tremendous Failure

Google certainly knows how to create a frenzied situation. In May of this year, Google Wave was announced, hailed as a full communication windfall.

Wave, developed by Lars and Jens Rasmussen, was to combine the abilities of email, wiki, instant message, blog, GOOG Docs, and all of it rewritable/editable on the fly!

No more digging through thousands of archived emails, no more having to create separate documents, less mis-communication. The holy grail of business tools and communication tools. Here’s a list of everything you should be able to do with Wave:

  1. Organize Events
  2. Create and Manage “Living” Group Projects
  3. Drag-n-Drop Photo Sharing
  4. Create “Living” meeting notes
  5. Brainstorming? (seems like a redundant use)
  6. Interactive Games

Google furthered the frenzy by bottle-necking the admission to the Google Wave Beta, releasing 100,000 invitations to request pool. And, all you heard about for weeks was just how “revolutionary” this tool was going to be, pushing the hype over Wave to unseen levels. People were begging, pleading, and, somewhere out there, stealing invites. They had the populous going bonkers.

Then everyone started using it. Or, at least, attempted to use it.

And That’s Why This Wave is Terminal

No one can figure out how to use it effectively. It’s not that people don’t understand the basic notion of how to compose a WAVE, or even how to add in other people, but it’s not nearly as fluent as it was made out to be.

It’s really Google Wave (for Developers Only)

There are two videos. One for developers and one for users (I think).

  1. There’s a developer video that’s 1 hour and 20 minutes long!
  2. The Dr. Wave Intro Video (which I assume is for users) is a whopping 2:12 long.

That’s strange: apparently, Google doesn’t really want everyday users to use WAVE. There’s detailed set of instructions for developers, who may, eventually, create Wave apps, and we get a 2 minute video. It seems that Google forgot who’s going to push developers to make apps?

Wave UI

The  UI (user-interface) is clean enough, but incredibly clunky. All your Waves are smashed into one Inbox. There’s no way to distinguish what’s a personal wave from a business wave (assuming you’ve even attempted a collaboration). Going further, there’s no way to sort your business waves into categories.

And, sure, you can drag a wave into the SPAM folder or TRASH, however since you can’t actually delete a wave, all these “non-important” waves sit there and rot. FOREVER.

The application usability is dismal. The Dev Team at Google apparently missed the lecture on “plug-n-play” functionality. Having to follow specific “bots” in order to possibly use the developer apps, is a nightmare. And, of course, there’s no guidance on how to effectively leverage the apps and the bots. That’s how I know this Samuel L. Jackson wave video is propaganda.

The application usability alone is what makes Wave fail. Even if you didn’t have a sense of how you could really apply this to business, it would at least allow everyday users to CREATE with it.

Of course there’s going to be a learning curve with any new tool, but even months after release, everyone is still clueless as to how to use Wave.

Tweets of Confusion:

Tweet of Confusion 1

Tweet of Confusion 2

Tweet of Confusion 3

That’s just a small sampling of the most recent tweets about Google Wave (thanks to Google’s awesome “real-time” updates).

Sucker-Punched by Google Again

This Isn’t the First One, This Won’t Be The Last

Google’s had a couple of spectacular bombs in the past, and one just recently outside of Wave.  Anyone out there remember Google Lively? (If you’re shaking your head, don’t worry, you’re not alone.) Lively was Google’s attempt to try and eat some of Second Life’s share, and closed it’s doors just months after opening.

What about Google Knol? Not a complete failure, since it hasn’t closed up shop, but all you heard about for months was how Knol was going to be the real deal; a true competitor to Wikipedia. Now? Just another entity that exists in limbo.

And, for a more recent flop, besides Wave, remember that little thing called SideWiki? The book is still out on this one, but it certainly hasn’t gathered the steam that Google thought it would. Beyond creating another ulcer for the PR folks, at this point, it’s another failed attempt for Google to absorb more market share from other entities that did it first and do it better.

  1. Dec 14 2009

    Hey, you’ve forgotten one thing:

    Google Wave Beta is a beta product!

    You can’t complain about features that the team has already admitted aren’t there yet! They’ve said already that they haven’t put in the ability to delete a Wave. They reason they’re doing this is because Google wants their product to be bug-free, and they’re letting users test the product. Now, yes, as a product, it is pretty shabby, and nobody really knows how to use it effectively. Oh well, I’m sure it will improve over time, so I’m not deleting my account anytime soon.

    • Dec 14 2009


      I realize it’s in Beta, but it’s is a pretty crappy BETA. Why should Google be exempt from putting out a good beta? There are tons of sites out there in beta that deliver on what they promise. (And yes they are full of bugs too) but that doesn’t stop people from creating on them and making it a useful tool.

      Google’s done a lot good things, just not as of late. And, for the record, I’m not ditching my account either. 😉

  2. Ben
    Dec 14 2009

    Actually, I don’t think Wave is even in Beta yet; It’s still a “preview”.

    I do think Wave is an incredibly useful tool, but I can see why other people don’t have much use for it.

    It’s great when you have multiple people contributing to a single document — Wave’s a huge step up from etherpad, which I had previously been using to outline business proposals / code outlines with the friends that I work with.

    It’s much better than any instant messaging program for a political / scientific argument, as you can edit your posts to correct ambiguous statements, reply to specific portions of a comment, or branch the conversation if certain facts need to be discussed more.

  3. Ben C.
    Dec 14 2009

    I agree that the UI is clunky and VERY memory intensive, but I think they’ve got more up their sleeve on this one. They’ve acquired Appjet, makers of Etherpad, and are incorporating that GREAT technology into wave.

    Plus, ‘wave’ just sounds cool.

  4. Brian
    Dec 14 2009

    So its a crappy beta, sure, but what is important about Google Wave is not Google’s interface to it. Saying Google Wave is crappy is like saying E-mail was crappy in 1965. What’s important about Wave is that it is a far Far superior protocol for communication than E-mail. Google’s current web interface to wave is just that: its GMail for waves. Its a very immature technology and the one and only client for it is not that good right now, but in the future it will be better and there will be as many others are there are Instant messenger clients that support Jabber (I say this because there is a big overlap between those two technologies so its a more reasonable analogy than E-mail which is much older than any other comparable technology).

    Even on top of all that promise, this supposedly crap web client is already one of the best tools out there for real time collaborative editing or document based communication. My boyfriend and I were play testing a playing card game which requires a lot of cards to be in-play at the same time, and it would not have been possible to both communicate and track all of this data easily and in real time on any other service I’m aware of.

    What’s important about Wave right now is its power, not its simplicity.
    Simplicity will come soon enough.

  5. Anon
    Dec 14 2009

    It’s not a beta, it’s a developer preview. FOR DEVELOPERS. Google knows it’s not ready. Give it time and STFU.

    • Dec 14 2009

      It may be a “preview” (otherwise known as “BETA”), but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say “developer” anywhere, except here really: . But thanks for your insightful comment about giving it time. Isn’t that all any us has anyway when we’re talking about Google? Right.

  6. Evan
    Dec 14 2009

    Sounds like you just want to complain about Google, or promote your blog by complaining about Google, over nothing.

    • Dec 14 2009

      Actually, Evan, that’s exactly what I intended to do. 1) Point out the future’s “online tool for real-time communication and collaboration” major flaws up to this point. It’s not really nothing when you’ve hyped this thing and it doesn’t deliver.

      And, 2) Promote my blog. Yes, I know, it’s pretty selfish of my to state my opinion about the state of online affairs. Even though it does happen to be my long-standing profession. If you think it’s rubbish, that’ your opinion. But thank you Evan, for leaving yours.

  7. John Johnson
    Dec 14 2009

    I find Wave extremely useful, and not at all difficult to use. Where’s the dividing line between it being a failure of the product or the user? That’s a debate for the ages.

    BTW, here’s a Twitter search to contrast the single-pointed hyperbolic bias of your own.

    Guess what? Surprise surprise, there’s a number of other people who love it.

    Knowl, Lively, and SideWiki, I’ll agree, were a waste of time by Google, it was ridiculous for them to think that they’d compete with Wikipedia, 2nd Life, and a host of FF extensions, all which were already being used by millions of people and were barely different in their offerings.

    But, if you think RSS or Twitter are in any way equivalent to the real-time capabilities offered by the Wave protocol, you really don’t understand the details of it that well – it’s far beyond them not only in scope but robustness. I don’t expect that much will come from Wave in the next year or so, but that’s fine, Google has historically been in the long game, and this is a technology that is almost entirely geared towards that. One thing that you must anticipate is that the protocol’s future users are currently tweenies and teenagers who are ubiquitously connected. (Hint: It’s not only about the real-time web and collaboration, which is arguably the main point, but also about making it universally interchangeable between mobiles and desktop. Think of this future in terms of an iPhone Facebook App for everything on the internet other than Facebook. Twitter or RSS, this is not.)

  8. Fabian
    Dec 15 2009

    As been said, this is not in a beta, but a preview, or a Pre-Alpha. A beta would be many times farther along and a much more completed product.
    Currently there is only a fraction of the features that were touted on it’s announcement, and the settings page isn’t even that, it’s a settings Wave.
    And Google hasn’t done much hyping. Nearly all of the hyping has been done by tech blogs and communities. And that’s just what happened. Some people that understood the potential for Wave got super excited and giddy about it. Those that then couldn’t see it’s potential just listened to the people that seemed like they understood, but took the excitedness and giddiness as a sign of how good it is now, when that giddiness is more for what the product will be in a year. Let that misunderstanding grow for a couple months and you have a ton of people with much higher expectations than they should have, and then people start to get disappointed.

    I don’t personally know what the development schedule for G-Wave is on the developers, but I’m not expecting the product to be ready to be functional for another year, especially considering that they just finished the server software, which I bet was taking up most of their time.

    But give it a year. They have opened up Google Wave far earlier than you, or most other people, expect from an application.
    Give it five years(or less) and I bet we’ll see Microsoft Outlook Wave

  9. Dec 15 2009

    I second what Brian commented.

    Google developers are trying to create a whole new e-mail technology from scraps. Their idea and the pace in which they have developed Google wave is appreciable. Like any other new technology, it needs time to evolve.

    You may never know… Our next generation might take Google Wave or similar technologies to a higher level and emails might get out-dated.

  10. Monica
    Dec 15 2009

    Holy cow you are a moron and really need to learn how to proofread your blog. This was just written as fodder for Reddit publicity

    • Dec 15 2009

      I only publish these, because, in comparison with other thoughtful and well-meaning discussion starters it’s you who look like the moron. Perhaps next time, you’ll actually attempt to engage the space with something other than a snide remark?

  11. Dec 15 2009
  12. Dec 17 2009

    The Dr. Wave Intro Video (which I assume is for users) is a whopping 2:12 long. That’s 2 minutes 12 seconds. Make sure you do your research correctly before posting something like that.

    I personally love Google Wave. There are a number of problems with it, and I agree with you on the fact that the interface is annoying. The fact that you can’t delete Waves doesn’t really matter to me, but I miss things like Starring and labeling, and filters to automatically label them. Removing people from Waves, and adding things like permission (read, read/write, read/write/EDIT) is also important. For example, if you are using a Wave as instant messaging, you don’t want someone else going back and editing your messages.
    I’d also like it if it remembered tags, and gave hints when you write a new Wave as to what tags you’ve used before, because you’re likely to want to use them again.

    The biggest problem, I think, with Google Wave is that there aren’t yet enough people to able to use it correctly. I think it could be great for collaboration, instant messaging and email, but for me, the games aren’t all that interesting. Another problem you mentioned is bots. I agree totally with you, this is really annoying. The fact that bots are so hard to find is a real nuisance. Also the fact that they are bundled in with your normal contacts.

    I could go on about the problems of it, and some of the things that I like, but I’m getting bored now 😛

  13. Leah
    Dec 22 2009

    Making Wave useful is all about having people you already collaborate with regularly on it. I have my editors on Wave. What used to be a four day process of editing a single chapter now only takes a few hours. It used to be such a pain to have four people editing my work, now it’s a breeze.

    For my final project in a class last semester, my group and I all used Wave together to set it up. Before, it would have been done awkwardly through e-mail, and maybe an MSN conversation. Again, Wave made everything such a breeze.

    So I’ve found Wave very useful so far, and I look forward to what’s coming. For those who don’t have need of collaboration, Wave is just a buggy e-mail client that not many people are using yet. But give it time. When Google is ready, there will probably be a nice, concise tutorial. After that, as more and more people use Wave, we’ll see it grow and evolve until it becomes what Google envisioned. That will be a few years down the road, but I think that it will happen if you let it.

  14. Hrita
    Dec 25 2009

    It seems there are plenty of Google fanboys, paid or unpaid, so Wave won’t be a failure at least for the time being.
    There are 2 points I like to say :

    1) The hyped about “protocolness” or the Wave protocol is dangerous for one reason : it tries to achieve monopoly. We have enough protocols and http by Tim Lee has been wonderful. Compare this to the monoply trying to be attained by Google, who just sells your privacy and perhaps is worse than MS now.

    2) People, not a handful of geeks, prefer simple applications with a simple one track action. Unless very crazy or turned away by family and real friends or some useless office workers no one wants to “email,chat,IM, abc, xyz, 1234” all in one go. Wikipedia and Twitter won hearts because of simplicity. Morning shows the day : Wave is not simple and will never be as it tries to CAPTURE all.
    Seing what one was typing at the other end was offered by ICQ chat client long ago, and there are already good white boards and collaborative tools in plenty.

    Saying this as opensource is another trap to mesmerize the population and cash on their data. Its sad how some people worship such monopolistic giants. Its of faint hope that some one writes such article in his blog.

  15. Steve
    Jan 2 2010

    The essence of things for me is seeing Google not spreading themselves too thin by trying to be everything to everyone. If they stick with their strengths, Google Wave can be very useful… maybe incrementally over the next few years ‘everyday users’.

    Truth is, Google has been pushing the hype button on Wave hard, so it’s not unfair to have expected more from the ‘beta’, ‘pre-alpha’… or whatever they choose to call it. Like ‘themilwaukeeseo’, I’m not dropping my account, and still looking forward to the program advancements!

  16. Christopshki
    Jan 6 2010

    That first tweet isn’t a tweet of confusion. The person is asking what the other person uses google wave for. not how to use it. There are many different uses for google wave, so he is asking what the person uses it for.

  17. Jan 6 2010

    I find it OK, although after an initial flurry of excitement I’m now down to watching for new waves in Chromium with the notifier, not particularly creating them myself.

    Rather than conjuring the spectre of the old “don’t those crazy developers know they need to fix it to gain traction” argument, which presents an offensively unrealistic false dichotomy, I think it would have been more interesting had you commented on the cartesian simplicity of waves (comprising, as they do, wavelets and blips and resulting in gadgets or robots having scope of “just the blip” or “the whole wave” accordingly but nothing in between) jarring with how people want to organize themselves. This is why one of the very things for which Wave was touted as a replacement – IM – is a flop: quite a lot of people (“users” or “developers” aside) don’t like having to organize their friendly conversations into projects or topics the way Wave guides them to.

  18. Ohmage
    Jan 7 2010

    I think it’s biggest issue getting off the ground is that people are used to using e-mail and getting them out of that habit will be difficult.

    Wave is currently unable to send messages to regular e-mail addresses and while you could argue that this is exactly the point of wave, there is something to be said for “weaning” people out of their old habits.

    I see no reason for a wave to not be sendable by e-mail as a communication thread to a non wave user. I think that just doing that would make it immediately useful to everyone already using it and encourage more people to use it.

  19. Hernan
    Jan 7 2010

    Google Wave is a failure for a simple reason.

    *Reinvent the wheel*

    Gmail, facebook works fine!, a good thing would be make them better!
    closer with a simpler comunication, and ADDING functions in googlewave


    we wont get any incompatible and unintuitive interface just because it comes from google, we are free

    enough we already have with thing like
    stupid hardware incompatible that we are “bound”


    hard, but sometimes worth

  20. Joe620
    Jan 12 2010

    Considering the extreme hype and Google does no wrong mentality of Internet bloggers I am surprised how far Wave has fallen off the map and how quick. I don’t know for sure and I am sure they can salvage it but right now it looks like a failure. Too early to tell for sure though. I feel Google products are cheap and cheesy but they work because they are free and there are fanboys who think Google is some Jedi clan fighting the evil empire. This product seems to appeal to the fanboys but left the cheap freebie crowd out by making it too complex and there are a lot more cheapos out there than fanboys.

  21. Jan 12 2010

    wave is ok. i used it for the first few days but then never went back. first, not all my friends are on it. second, i don’t really get it. sometimes i just want to chat without all the complication.

    i don’t see it replacing chat messenger or email. is that what it’s supposed to do?

  22. Timur
    Jan 16 2010

    It’s harder to understand the point of this article than to understand the g-wave. Is it to outline how crappy wave is? What’s the point of outlining it without any comparison to “non-crappy” examples? Don’t find it useful – don’t use it. Unless you’re a dummy it doesn’t take long to understand how it works and where it can be helpful and advantageous.

    • Jan 16 2010


      I think if you had actually read the post, you’d know that I didn’t say it was difficult to “understand how it works”, my point is that it doesn’t work as it was intended. Google Wave is a developer’s paradise, without doubt. It’s usefulness to the general populace remains to be seen at this point. It’s not integrated into any other of Google’s applications, save Maps.

      Theoretically, it can be helpful, but at this point, it’s nothing more than an elaborate instant messaging service.

  23. Jan 16 2010

    Well, I’d say it’s more of an elaborate instant messaging, email and document collaboration service.
    I think it has a long way to go before it’s ready for general release to the public. Remember: it’s not even in beta yet. There are a lot of features yet to be included; some of which you can see within Wave, but they are greyed out, while some we can only assume will be included, such as read/write permissions.
    I believe (although I may be wrong) it also has Picasa integration.

    Although it is clearly not ready for release just yet, I believe that by the time it reaches beta, it will be an amazing service.

  24. Jan 18 2010

    Here’s my issue with Google Wave: I can’t explain it to anybody. **Let me define anybody as anybody who doesn’t work in some web related field but may or may not be generally interested in technology. Most of my friends and family… my dev friends and occasionally jump on there, but not often.**

    It’s not for lack of trying…

    “its like chat, but persistent…er permanent”

    “its like a real time e-mail”

    “its like a web page that people can work on at the same time”

    “it uses cool technology to send letters one by one instead of in entire emails- so you can chat in real time and/or have a more conversational e-mail”

    These have so far fell flat- either to not encompass the breadth of the technology or to fail to show “what’s in it for me”

    What Wave Needs: An elevator speech. Messaging that makes a 60 year old interested and a 20 year old excited… Unfortunately, the geeky 1:22 video lacks that concision entirely. Once Google can come up with an elegant way to explain WHAT IT DOES and WHY I NEED IT – maybe it will take off much faster.

    Also- need more/better desktop clients. Waveboard is buggy and I’m not about to keep wave open in my browser 24/7. I like being able to alt-tab to my e-mail client and would need something similar to use wave regularly.

  25. charon
    Jan 19 2010

    Google wave looks like a simple way to share contents with revision control and it handles concurrency. That’s what it is and even if there are other solutions this sims promising too. AFAICS Google Wave is released to developers and entusiant users, they should make available many application and test the software before waves opens to the pubblic. “Beta” doesn’t mean anything, it is important to understand who’s the target user, and I think it isn’t considered ready for everyone. For this reason the interface is far from perfect and it still is a quite “closed” (not interoperable) service, but if there are robots for Twitter or even forum comments it is possible to do a similar gateway for emails, allowing to use the gmail account to comunicate to people out of wave.
    I see people concerned about their privacy: they’re right! But wave is one of the few (the only?) google service that has an open source implementation, and it also let people use their own server witch comunicate with google only if a wave is shared at least with a pearson using a google account (that’s what already appens with emails to gmail account).
    Of course it looks useless if there isn’t anybody to talk to, but that isn’t a failture of the comunication mean: if all your friends use facebook (witch really keeps in its servers your personal data) jabber, msn, aim may look useless to you, but I don’t think they really are.

  26. Jan 30 2010

    Definitelly, fail of the year. I still haven’t met someone who’s using Wave every day or even every week. Nonsense app, great hype.

  27. Feb 2 2010

    It’s fairly obvious to me that Wave is the spawn of over zealous developers who’ve never been reigned in by anyone with a basic connection to the real world.

    “Let’s take all these things that people want kept separate, and jumble them together. The way we jumble them together is what will impress people, and since we’re Google, let’s make sure we don’t consult with any designers whatsoever, or rubbish their ideas, because hey, they’re just designers. It can’t fail…”

    It can, and it will. The fanboys keep talking about how stupid people are for not getting it, there was a comment about the line between product fail or user fail. If the user fails to ‘get’ it, then it’s a product fail, and these insidious remarks, comparing any critique of Wave to saying e-mail was crappy in the 1960’s, please, get over yourself. Just because you want it to happen, and just because you consider yourself so up to speed with the bleeding edge, doesn’t mean that you can make accurate predictions about consumer behaviour.

  28. Feb 17 2010

    My friends and I waited on Wave for, oh, ages. And guess what? We planned to use it to collaborate on our Programming app, but it EPIC FAILED to deliver. We went back to Skype/IM’ing the stuff back ‘n’ forth. Or even Pastebin.

    You notice how anything Google seems to be Beta? Google Talk [Beta], Google Wave [Beta], heck… even Google Mail is Beta!!! I’m starting to lose confidence in this………

  29. Feb 18 2010

    @JoshuaK24 Actually, Gmail has been out of beta for a few months now, as has Google talk, and the complete Google Apps suite.

    And Google Wave isn’t in beta. It hasn’t even reached that stage yet. For most users, it’s currently a “Preview”. Which means it’s not even really pre-beta yet.

    I agree with people saying that it’s not ready yet. It’s still missing a lot of crucial features that would make it usable. I strongly believe, however, that Google will be able to deliver a good, usable product by the time it is released to a true beta. By the time the beta tag is removed, I think Wave will truly have the capability to supplant email. That, however, is a long way off just yet.

  30. max
    Mar 15 2010

    Wave crashes when I use it in Chrome, but not in IE. nuf said, its crap.

  31. redben
    May 27 2010

    Wave’s problem is that google wants to make a revolution, instead of an evolution. Revolutions only work when people are really think that existing solution REALLY, can’t deliver anymore. Whether in politics, IT or any other thing.
    Google should have planned an evolution from the main protocol: email. They could have built wave as an extension to gmail. When you recipients are gmail users the emails are party of a wave. When users are outside gmail, pop and smtp would be used. And of course only release the features one by one (just stuff and keep the fluff like live editing for later)
    It’s just the addict game.
    Once gmail users begin to see the benefit of (or get addicted to) waves over mail. They start pushing their networks into gmail. Then other email providers will get interest in the technology and you’ll begin to see them implementing waves to avoid loosing market share.

    May be that’s what they are trying to do with google buzz. I hope that it’s not too late for them.

  32. Jun 4 2010

    You know what? “Google Wave is a personal communication and collaboration tool announced by Google.”…. What do you mean with that? Google is going with head ache definitions and PM’s videos. They just have to explain clearly what’s the use of Wave is to average people.

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