What the Wave Taught Us
When Google announced its Wave project in 2008, some of us in the company were excited – our company relies on online collaboration, and Wave seemed to be a way to keep a continuously-running virtual meeting room open for us to throw in ideas and work on projects. But we never took on Wave, and neither, it seems, did others.
It wasn’t a lack of publicity. Most people knew at least that Wave existed, even if they didn’t know what it did. What did Wave in? A few thoughts:
Barriers to adoption – Google Wave required buy-in from IT departments, which tend to stay with what they have unless they’re given an absolutely delightful reason to switch.
Message not received – Just what was Google Wave? People still aren’t sure. It was very hard to describe, and they never really got their spiel down to a business card-sized statement. What is it? “Equal parts conversation and document” – well, okay, but what is it?
Too much thinking required. A tough learning curve won’t deter PhotoShop users, but we tend to be less forgiving of free applications. Strange, but if you haven’t invested money, you’re less likely to invest time either. You don’t need a 20-minute video to learn how to tweet.
No chance for gradual adoption. Google search built its market share one person at a time. Facebook too. But to use Wave, you needed to enroll a bunch of people right off the bat, and ensure that they all learn how to use the program. Too much like work.
It’s a failure, but not a tragedy. As Googling Google points out, this was a lab project – an experiment. Google learned a lot from the experience, and already harvested the patient’s organs for use in Gmail and Google Apps. To fail well and constructively – that’s a skill worth honing.