de.velopmind | The Det about Programming

August 7, 2010

Google Wave starving?

Filed under: GoogleWave — Tags: — de.velopmind @ 4:46 pm

Yesterday I got notified by my son, that Google has announced the end of Wave. I was really surprised and cannot really understand it.

The reason they give is:

“But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked.”

And here I can only respond: “Hey Google, what did you expect??”. So, as a Java/Scala developer and a Wave user since December ’09,  I will try to reflect a bit about it.

To just start with a resume: “Google, you are impatient like a farmer who pulls on the plants to make them faster growing.”

They definitely should read Sernaferna’s blog post and reconsider things.

How does it look from my perspective now?

First, some history. When Wave was introduced, it was only accessible for some elitarian developers who somehow managed to get a sandbox account.  It took some time until Wave reached a broader mass with the preview access. (This was on 30. Sept. ’09, reg. german Wikipedia) But even that only worked on an invitation basis.  I remember googling about that Wave-thing, and hitting so many forum posts saying: “Would like to test it, but does anyone know how I can get an invitation?”.  It stayed being an insider thing, and even for me as a developer it took some time until I found someone who knows someone who had a preview account, so we could activate an invitation chain.

I suppose Google hoped for a more enthusiastic multi-level marketing, but that did not work as expected.

Why?

Well, for myself, I can’t use something like wave from my office, as we work half closed-shop.  So Wave was a private hobby. But outside my office I mostly use a Dell mini 9 netbook ( 8″ display), and Wave was simply not ready for use on such a device. For me it was ok to work with a slow web interface, reduced space and display problems here and there, like a jumping blip view on scrolling.  In the beginning I even lost some waves.  Say: Wave was buggy, somewhere between beta and alpha.

Nothing to sell it to my friends, even the younger ones.  Only for some fellow computer freaks it was an interesting topic, but beside Wave we already had other channels, and because of the mentioned instabilities we did not trust it with serious stuff.

Things have changed since then, but only in the last half year at most.

We would have liked to do more with Wave, if it only would have been more integrated with the “classic” channels, like email, twitter, blogs and chat. But for us using Wave was always an either-or, never an also or integrated with.

What did we do with Wave?  We tried to understand how it works. We discussed interesting use cases, and we tried to understand the spare documentation about protocols, data models and other interna.

People started some very interesting developments, even I did, by trying to give the robot API a Scala touch.

But the information came drop-wise, often one had to study the source code, and at least the Java part underwent heavy changes. Documentation was spread on a good bunch of web pages (not easily downloadable or printable), which even were target of unnoticed updates.

All these consumed far too much of my short free time, so the ideas were many, the progress low.

Only step by step the internas of Wave hit the public of interested developers, and bit by bit we got more interesting (and stable!) gadgets and robots.

Since the 18th of may this year Wave is available for everyone. So it seems to have reached a trustworthy stability, left the elitarian status, so that we can tell our friends now about it. There was June, there was July (with the start of summer holidays here in Germany, so communication went down generally). And now August has only started and instead of selling it to more and more people now with words like “i’ve experienced it for some time now, and now it it is available for you too”,  all we can tell our friends after holiday is:  Wave? Yeah, I know, but forget it. It will stop soon.

Not after one year (it isn’t even September now), but after three months now -as we should not really count the closed alpha/beta phase- Google has called for shutdown.

Was Google really expecting all the people out there to be bleeding-edgers? To be Beta-Junkies? New-Hype-Jumpers?  I can’t really believe it.

And what about the promises to make Wave available outside of Google Web apps? As a locally installable server on own domains, like all the mail servers?

Nothing to see from that. Boys, everyone can install a serious mail server on every Linux distribution. Even on windows there is no problem to install a mail server. The same for Web server (blog, wiki) and for IM (Jabber server).

We were waiting to play around with Wave in this way too, but FedOne was not really the way for freetime experimenters, as it was not as fully featured as Googles own service. I hoped there would be time for someone to bring up a usable implementation, or more feature complete software would have come out of the Google labs.

But now it ends even before it really began. This is disappointing. Have we developers and early-adopters all been only Google’s laboratory rats?

And regarding the user interface:  Google only published a console client. But I know many many people who use Outlook or Thunderbird, or comparable local clients. The web interface is always only a fallback. The same is true for chat clients. But for Wave there was never a comparable alternative, now will there ever be one, if Google now shuts down development before people had enough time to take things over and let it mature. To play with the concepts, the protocols and the libraries.

Google, for your people it may be a long time now, but many people outside Google only started to touch Wave. It needs more than this short period to see all the necessary development to get a broad adaption.  You now pinch a green plant before it carries fruit.

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