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Ian Tomlin

Google Killing 'Wave' - Where did Google Wave go wrong?

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WSJ - Google Kills Wave Article

The announcement by Google that it is axing Wave isn't perhaps too surprising. It brings into question how mature a technology needs to be before you let it lose into an expectant market. I'm left wondering how damaging it is to Google to ask people to try out your development ideas and then tell them a year down the line that they've wasted their time. Perhaps it would have been a better idea for Google (and less of a PR blip) to have adopted a more cautious approach to testing and market acceptance. Squork for example has been running behind the curtains of Encanvas's site for over 18-months - and has been trialed in India, the UK and South Africa - but has not been released owing to the recognition that there are not just technology issues to deal with. 

Where did Google Wave go wrong?

I think most people that tried the Google Wave technology in its first form found that it fell down in three main areas:

1. Security and demarcation of groups - Google still hasn't worked out that people like to compartmentalize their lives and so want to compartmentalize their social ties and applications. With Google Wave, everything was on show.

2. Appreciating that people don't want to just throw out email and their current ways of working - Many people that tried Wave were asking the question 'Why is this BETTER than email?' In reality, most people are pretty happy with the communications tools they use. Google Wave was promoting something DIFFERENT rather than something EXTRA.

3. Appreciating how people communicate - Much of getting a social operating system right is about honoring social processes and somehow replicating the human processes in an online context. Google Wave was exploring this in a very superficial way but it arguably wasn't well enough thought through.

Well, maybe the big experiment didn't work but the CEO of Google has made it clear that 'nothing is thrown away'. Google has learned a great deal from its Google Wave experiment and I'm sure we will see some of the learning lessons in their future offerings. What this announcement does however is to open up the field yet again for an organization to get social operating systems right. We are still at a stage in the evolution of IT systems where there are still many things 'not working' and 'not understood'.

I'm reminded of the Wright Brothers and the challenges they had to overcome. Not only did they need to re-write the book on aeronautics but they had to design their own engine and their own propeller before controlled flight became possible. It's probably going to take a similar 'belief' in the outcome to succeed in creating a social operating system that consumers and business people will buy into.

My blog focuses on agile organizational design and related information management technologies such as cloud computing, net.working, social collaboration, data integration and meshing, business insights and code-free applications design.

Ian Tomlin

Ian Tomlin is a marketing consultant, writer and speaker on the subject of agile organizational design and associated technologies.


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