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Google Wave and the Difficulty of Radical Change

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the maybe-that's-why-we-don't-have-flying-cars dept.

Communications 179

cedarhillbilly writes "An article by Matt Asay in the Register takes on Google Wave from the perspective of visionary change versus incremental change. He suggests that visionaries should focus on smaller transformations of our day-to-day lives rather than leapfrogging. 'Much as it may want to radically change the world for users and developers, radical change generally happens over time, through a series of incremental, unexceptional edits to existing technology and processes.' Perhaps Google sensed this when they famously said they were worried about having too many geniuses. Asay revisits the point that the open source development model necessarily builds on a community of contributors and users, and not the mad scientist in an ivory tower."

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179 comments

Be radical. (4, Insightful)

3vi1 (544505) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326134)

>> He suggests that visionaries should focus on smaller transformations of our day-to-day lives rather than leapfrogging.

Why can't they make something radical, then add on compatibility stepping stones for a transition period? Would Wave have been so unused if you could read your normal POP3 mail in it and intercommunicate with traditional IM systems?

Re:Be radical. (1)

OptimusPaul (940627) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326240)

I don't think that Wave was radical enough. I never actually used it mind you. I wasn't able to get in on it early on and then I forgot about it. Nobody I knew used it longer than a few months. I really didn't find it all that compelling.

Re:Be radical. (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326714)

It wasn't an issue of being radical, it was an issue of it being a collaborative tool, restricted to a small number of people and lacking an obvious purpose. People don't generally learn to use a tool in case it becomes helpful later on, they learn to use it because they have an idea as to what to do with it. They might only need it for a theoretical contingency plan, but they at least have an idea what the purpose is. It's rare for something to take off just from random tinkering.

Re:Be radical. (1)

OptimusPaul (940627) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326814)

that's kind of what I mean. It was isolated, they didn't take the chance on making it actually useful to a wide audience. That is one area they were not radical enough in. I also just think it wasn't all that novel. It was boring.

Re:Be radical. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327142)

It was kind of a mash-up of Facebook, Email, and Twitter. And most people went "Cool. Not sure why I'd want it though."

It did have some unique properties. But Google also did a pretty lousy job of selling it. Presumably they felt its advantages would be obvious. But even more obviously, to most people they were anything but.

Re:Be radical. (2, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326352)

Baby steps get you somewhere, leaps leave a lot of people behind. You need to nudge people to make the small changes ... and you have to rely on the young and the brave to try something new.

Re:Be radical. (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326402)

Why can't they make something radical, then add on compatibility stepping stones for a transition period? Would Wave have been so unused if you could read your normal POP3 mail in it and intercommunicate with traditional IM systems?

Exactly this is what I've been waiting been waiting for since I first read about wave. It's obvious. ...but too much hard work for... wait, google?

Re:Be radical. (1)

mikes.song (830361) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327832)

A wavelet was a very basic bit of text. They took communication to the most basic roots. Why add email headers to it? The whole point was to get rid of them. Why impose the limits of email on Wave?

Wave was a reinvention of the old systems. It's a very good idea, that has a few very good uses. Those uses are not email, or chat, or message boards; the real use was document creation and maintenance. And, that functionality likely got bastardized by internal politics.

Re:Be radical. (3, Insightful)

TarMil (1623915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326412)

Would Wave have been so unused if you could read your normal POP3 mail in it and intercommunicate with traditional IM systems?

This is the real deal. Wave was too far away from everything we know, and had too few links with the rest of the world. People accept radical novelties when they can blend in with what they are used to.

Re:Be radical. (1)

rcharbon (123915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327328)

If it's a small transition, it's not visionary.

Re:Be radical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33328170)

Ah, but if it fails miserably, it must be radical. What a spin!

Re:Be radical. (1)

darrylo (97569) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327410)

The obvious thing would have been to integrate the h*ll out of wave, gmail, and gchat. Since google isn't stupid, since that didn't happen, and since wave died an amazingly fast death, my wild-*** guess says that a significant amount of internal politics was involved. Perhaps something to the effect of the gmail group saying, "Nuh-huh, no ty", and then trotting out a list of why wave was bad for gmail. After that, it was just the fat lady singing, with wave throwing itself out to the world, in the forlorn hope that someone could find a use for it as part of some killer app.

Too many geniuses? (2, Insightful)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326182)

Nobody who spent any time using Wave thought that the problems were due to too many geniuses in the mix.

A real genius doesn't just show you a vision. A real genius creates a useful artifact that solves a problem of importance. We're not talking about art.

Re:Too many geniuses? (4, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326410)

"If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse." - Ford

Sometimes projects swing and miss, let's not forget the dozens of promises made about Longhorn before it got scrapped and downsized, WinFS and whatnot; it wasn't as public but far more resources were wasted, and I expect Google has internal projects which come to nothing constantly as well..

I don't think there are any great insights to draw from Google Wave; they worked on it, it got hyped up, it didn't catch on, bummer. Doesn't take a genius or a madman in an ivory tower for that to happen

Re:Too many geniuses? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326740)

There's a difference here. When Ford released his first vehicle, he had ad writers tell people what it was for, and people added ideas onto that. Google, didn't really give much purpose to the software, and unlike cars, which could be used, if in a limited basis as a stand alone unit in town, wave didn't really have a lot of utility unless you knew other people using it and had some idea what it was for.

There were many cars before Ford (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327440)

When Ford released his first vehicle, he had ad writers tell people what it was for,

WTF? Everyone knew what a car was. They had been around for 100 years before Ford. What Ford did was successful mass production.
 

Re:Too many geniuses? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326842)

I don't think there are any great insights to draw from Google Wave; they worked on it, it got hyped up, it didn't catch on, bummer.

That would be true if whether something "caught on" was some unknowable black box. But whether things catch on is usually based on the opinion of people it could catch on with, which is easy to find out and learn from.

Re:Too many geniuses? (5, Interesting)

darkonc (47285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327372)

Longhorn, WinFS, etc. were probably more a product of MS Marketing than the 'too many Geniuses' problem. It's an old trick that they probably learned from IBM's heydays.

Promise your existing customer base ('everyone') a miracle (vaporware) product that will do everything that they ever wanted. Promise it next year. That way, when your competitors come out with a real product that does most of what your customers want -- or even all of what they really need, you can convince their CxO to "just wait until next year when our miracle product comes out -- then you won't have to deal with migration issues, etc.".

Then you can slowly move the target -- both what your 'miracle' product does and when it will be out -- until your promises and reality jive. By then your competitor's product will be easy to pooh-pooh as 'only slightly better than what we've got' and needing all of that migration work, etc.

Rinse, repeat.

Microsoft took a big hit with Longhorn -> Vista because Vista turned out to be such a massive dud. Now, MS is going to have a hard time convincing people to believe any of their long-term promises about much of anything.

Re:Too many geniuses? (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327436)

Sometimes projects swing and miss, ...

Yes, I agree. The problem isn't that the folks who created Wave aren't smart (some of them could even be geniuses). The problem is that they weren't even in the batters box with respect to what their customers were pitching, to mangle the metaphor.

Re:Too many geniuses? (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327834)

Woah. There was no reason to mangle that metaphor so badly. The engineers could have been the pitchers throwing wild. The customers could be the batters watching, bemused, as the balls flew over their heads. And the Google marketing staff could be the catchers, haplessly trying to make it look as if the crazy throws were intentional.

And we, the slashdot commentators, of course, are the umpires. No. We're the sportscasters. No. We're the annoying weather person who tries to say something pithy after the sports guy has wrapped up the daily events. Yes, that's it. Fixed that for you.

Re:Too many geniuses? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327444)

Sometimes projects swing and miss

Yes, I think that's the point. Wave didn't seem to do anything that we couldn't do better with other tools (and I have used it a fair bit for real, as part of a standardisation process). That doesn't mean that it was a daft thing to do, it was worth trying, it just didn't come off. Wasn't there a batsman in some sport who, when somebody commented on how many balls he swung for and missed, replied that he missed all the ones he didn't swing for?

Re:Too many geniuses? (1)

s1sfx (1883880) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327534)

A real genius doesn't just show you a vision. A real genius creates a useful artifact that solves a problem of importance. We're not talking about art.

That holds true for art just as well.

And the idea of making geniuses take incremental baby steps is just preposterous and some kind of oxymoron-sentence.

I couldn't disagree more (5, Insightful)

TheoCryst (975577) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326194)

Google Wave didn't fail because it was "too innovative" or "too radical." History is jam packed full of inventions and technologies that succeeded precisely because they were drastically better than what came before them (lightbulb versus candle, car versus horse, calculator versus abacus, GUI versus CLI). Google Wave failed for a combination of reasons. It wasn't marketed well, it didn't really solve any problems, and it just wasn't "better" enough over the standard ways of browsing the web.

Google Wave was a cool engineering project, but never should have been taken to market.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

achyuta (1236050) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326242)

Agreed.

One of the mistakes Google also made with Wave was not let it show email from GMail. I had to keep switching between the two to communicate.

Making the two products seem like different worlds worked against Wave.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

The Yuckinator (898499) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326422)

I think that Wave's biggest problem is that it was assumed to be a social media tool when it wasn't. My guess is that many people took that at face value and logged in with that expectation. When they discovered that it was really more of a collaborative tool and actually had nothing to do with social networking maybe they were disappointed and didn't give it a chance. I don't see any benefit to integrating email into the Wave system - I wouldn't want to interactively create an email message, and if I did I would just do it in the Wave and then paste it into an email. I suppose being able to email an entire Wave or a portion of one might be somewhat useful but given the minimal effort involved in copying and pasting that content into an email, it doesn't really seem like a deal breaker to leave it out.

I have found it to be incredibly useful for collaborating on documents like project quotes or planning. We have actually been using it pretty steadily to guide a couple of WWW projects. We haven't got a central office, rather the 3 of us have home offices. It's a great way to put all of our thoughts together in one place and not have to keep bouncing the same email thread around or passing around a text file.

I think that this particular "radical change" wasn't a radical change at all. The wrong idea got out pretty quickly and everyone seems to have run with it, and it's definitely a shame - Wave is a collaborative tool. Not much more, and not much less. I've been looking for this for quite a while and it will be sad to see this one go away. Wave, we hardly knew ye.

I'd love to host my own Wave Server at home and keep using it once Google takes theirs down.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (2, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326694)

I don't see any benefit to integrating email into the Wave system - I wouldn't want to interactively create an email message,

That's not the only thing you could do with it. Since it had extensions, you could easily embed, say, a map, a calendar meeting, or a survey into a Wave. Tools to embed these things into email are cumbersome, nonstandard, and not necessarily secure. Having the concept built-in has some advantages.

It's also useful in that if someone's not online, it can behave like email, much better than IM offline messages for the same purpose. But when someone is online, it simply and naturally flips to IM. It's nice that Google Talk is in Gmail, but it's not truly integrated -- I can't immediately continue an email conversation as IM, or vice versa.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327454)

I have found it to be incredibly useful for collaborating on documents like project quotes or planning. We have actually been using it pretty steadily to guide a couple of WWW projects.

That's what I used it for. I don't think it was as good as Google Docs for the job.

Paradoxical... (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326628)

One of the purposes of Wave was to unify the various means we have of communicating. You wouldn't need forums, Facebook, email, IM, IRC, mailing lists, etc, because Wave does it all.

Unfortunately, the implementation bogged down when we had too many messages, it wasn't nearly streamlined enough, and -- not entirely Google's fault, since there was enough of an API for people to do this -- but since it didn't wire into any of those systems, and since everyone wasn't trying it all at once (partly because of the semi-closed beta), you now had forums, Facebook, email, IM, IRC, mailing lists, Wave, etc, which isn't an improvement.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326310)

More importantly Google gave it not even three month in public, how exactly did they expect it to take on in that time frame? Also the software was slow and unfinished, with rather important features still missing (no public wave).

Wasn't there talk about integrating Wave into your Blog and stuff like that? Did any of that ever happen?

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326608)

That is the real crux in the matter. People don't just go in and jump to a new platform which is said to be cool and inovative. Most people have a wait and see mindset. Professionals don't have the time to jump to the latest and greatest. Otherwise they spin their wheels learning all tue new stuff and never getting it done. For example, I knew about XML for years I even took a little time to understand the concept and get past the hype that was huge in the early 2000's.
After a while I slowly started using it. Not from resistance to the technology but due to the fact that other methods were stile better supported. By 2005 and 2006 I started to use XML more often as it has became a good tool for manipulating data and tools were out there that saved me time.

During the months with google wave was out there I didn't even take a look to see what it does. As my current projects were already archetected.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326372)

It was also slow apparently when there were many posts in a wave. You don't go releasing fundamental software like that until everything at least feels fast for the user.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326456)

[...] it just wasn't "better" enough over the standard ways of browsing the web.

It wasn't intended to replace web browsing, but let's not get into that..

Google Wave was a cool engineering project, but never should have been taken to market.

They didn't really lose out by giving it a shot, it was fairly well polished, and as you say it was a cool engineering project not an unspeakable disgrace.
What happened to Google Cubed or Square or whatever, the one with the table, is that still around? Why not put it out and see what happens?

The guys writing these articles are probably making a much bigger deal about a Google Labs project ending than Google are..

Re:I couldn't disagree more (2, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326718)

It wasn't intended to replace web browsing

Alas, now that the project is cancelled, we'll never really know what it was supposed to be ;)

Re:I couldn't disagree more (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326468)

I think the main problems were:

(a) It was unfocused. What were they trying to build, a replacement for email or a collaborative word processor? It wasn't really great at either. Take a lesson from Apple-- sometimes it's better for a product to do 3 things really really well than to do 10 things poorly.

(b) The limited invite system is not a good way to launch a communications product that only works for talking to other people with that product. Invites worked for Gmail because you could still email everyone. Waves only worked with other Wave users, and there weren't very many of them. Google should have polished the system more and then launched big. If they made a big splash, they might have captured enough interest to keep it going. Instead everyone tried it out for a week or two, said, "this doesn't seem to be useful," and then they never looked at it again.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (2, Insightful)

dkf (304284) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327288)

If they made a big splash, they might have captured enough interest to keep it going. Instead everyone tried it out for a week or two, said, "this doesn't seem to be useful," and then they never looked at it again.

I for one am not sorry to see it go. We tried it pretty heavily for about 3 months as a way of helping people across multiple sites do collaborative software development and deployment, and it's big problem was that it was extremely hard to find what you were looking for (ironic for a Google product!) or what had changed in a large Wave (several hundred messages, many of which were relatively large things like full stack traces). Perhaps we just didn't try it right, perhaps, but going back to email and wiki pages was a relief.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327456)

Take a lesson from Apple-- sometimes it's better for a product to do 3 things really really well than to do 10 things poorly.

Actually it's more like get 3 good things out of the box and pay through the nose for the other 7 addons. But at least you know those other 7 are going to be of pretty-good quality due to Apple's anal nature.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327612)

Actually it's more like get 3 good things out of the box and pay through the nose for the other 7 addons.

I'm not sure to what you're referring.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327668)

Things like Apple app stores, where they are known to be picky about developer submissions.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327698)

That's not exactly Apple making you pay through the nose for addons. Complaining about that is a bit like complaining Microsoft for making you pay for addons because Adobe Photoshop isn't included in Windows.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (2, Informative)

asavage (548758) | more than 3 years ago | (#33328258)

I think your points are good. Additionally it was too buggy. Google is good at producing proof of concept software but don't seem to have people willing to flush out bugs (outside of core projects). A messenger or collaboration tool needs to show who is online. When I started using Google wave it would show yourself as online with a green dot but didn't show anyone else online. They eventually fixed this, but when they did, it was still broken. I have a friend who was always marked as online for several months even though they didn't login once. Google wave would also get slower and slower as the wave grew larger. If two people are just using it to talk after about an hour it would become so slow you could type a sentence before the first letter would appear on the screen. There are lots of interesting features but if you can't even get the basics working properly your product is not fit for general use.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326570)

Not to mention it was a CPU whore.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326648)

I agree with you 100%.

The real shame is that etherpad [etherpad.com] got killed in the process. The alternative incarnations are not quite the same.

Bad examples (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326772)

And perhaps you are proving TFA's point. In all those cases the development of the new alternative didn't happen at once and was a succession of incremental changes over the previous technology.

Take GUIs; OSes like Windows 1 ~ 3.11 made heavy use of CLI as well (and you might remember that Windows didn't really take off until 3); Windows 95 was still mostly a front-end for a particular version of DOS (7, IIRC); even nowadays there are a number of things that are done through the command line. Same with Mac OSes and let's not forget Linux there.

Horses weren't replaced by Ferraris either. Primitive cars were hardly an improvement over horses, and in fact the development of engines happened over the course of centuries (seriously, experimental steam-powered vehicles existed as early as 1672).

Calculators have been in development for centuries as well. Think of the Antikythera mechanism, but also of Pascal's mechanical calculators from the XVII century, and so on.

The lightbulb itself has a history going back at least 80 years until Edison made it work well enough to be a commercially viable alternative.

In short, judging form these examples, it would appear that slow, gradual change is exactly what allowed these technologies and inventions to succeed. We might look back and say "oh, the car is totally better than the horse", but it was a long time since cars first started being developed until this became true.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (1)

2fuf (993808) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327038)

and because it didn't integrate with GMail. no one I know had Wave, they required to invite your whole address book all over again, next to skype, facebook, yahoo IM etc. It useless to have so many different mail boxes to check

Re:I couldn't disagree more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33327326)

I am glad they did bring it to the market.

We got to play with it, see it, discuss it, and figure out if it was solving any needs.

They solved a lot of interesting problems -- and although the product wasn't workable it probably inspired other people to hopefully new and brighter things.

Locking it up in a company lab (as in Microsoft Labs) would have been a collosal waste.

Re:I couldn't disagree more (2, Insightful)

lakeland (218447) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327412)

Well, I disagree with you :)

I think wave failed because it did not have a transition path.

Wave is for collaboration, it was pretty much useless for just one person. Gmail interacts with any SMTP server so it was easy to grow organically. I think wave was a similar step above gmail as gmail was to webmail at the time. However wave made no real attempt to interact with legacy systems (even google legacy systems like gmail, google talk, google docs) and so with wave it was almost like joining a gated community and it quickly got boring...

and perhaps because Google involved? (0, Offtopic)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327882)

What would happen if this was some anonymous project hosted at sourceforge instead? Some really untraditional open source software, looking to problem in different (very different!) angle has been successful. While "old school fans" hate what it has become, I can give Azureus. Think about it and remember the product it was racing against, compare both. The "simple application" it was racing against has become so problematic so they ended up acquiring something that was supposed to compete against them, as alternative.

Perhaps Google fools themselves thinking everyone buys their "don't be evil" slogan and trust them. Why would I trust some side project of an advertising giant? You know, if you are a Chrome extension developer, prepare your $5, just at front page today. Now, if some miracle happens and actual open source developers say "oh really? here is your account revocation", will Chrome extension project called "too innovative"?

Google What? (2, Interesting)

gutbunny (967518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327922)

I spend 8+ hours a day programming in front of 3 screens with about 10 tabs open in each and I've never even heard of it. Maybe, just maybe, that's why it failed.

It takes 20 years (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326196)

It has been known for quite awhile that it takes 20 years for new/radical technology to be adopted. They expected it to take less time because they are Google and when you are Google and have so many geniuses working for you people will just do what you think is great right. The real world works much differently. Although the world may one day yet adopted the Googly way we won't know for another 20.

Re:It takes 20 years (2, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326490)

Like the airplane?

The powered airplane had it's first flight in December 1903, first military application in combat was 1911, mass use in warfare was 1914, so 11 years for it.

Atomic weapons, patented 1934, first test July 16 1945, first combat use August 6 1945, mass production 1946.

Radar, first operational radar system 1935, widespread use 1940.

Re:It takes 20 years (0, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326630)

There's no war (translation: huge artificial demand from government spending) to push Wave forward. Wave is what you get when you let engineers run things instead of staff who have social skills.

Re:It takes 20 years (1)

Dalambertian (963810) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326758)

Some contemporary examples (from wikipedia): Youtube's official launch was November 2005. By July 2006, they had 26k videos being uploaded per day. Facebook launched c. 2005 and had it's first 100 million users by August 2008, then doubled it in 225 days. Apple's app store was launched mid 2008. There are now some 200k approved apps. Twitter's tipping point happened at SXSW 2007, when it went from 20k to 60k tweets/day. These days, how long is too long to wait for something to take off?

Re:It takes 20 years (1)

dodobh (65811) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327356)

Which one of your examples is radically innovative?

Re:It takes 20 years (1)

Dalambertian (963810) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327540)

Compared to google wave? All of them. Compared to going to the moon? None.

Re:It takes 20 years (1)

dodobh (65811) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327782)

Twitter is IRC over HTTP, done wrong.
Facebook? Social networks predate Facebook, even online.

Wave was a nice idea, implemented badly. But it sure was innovative in what it tried to accomplish.

The killer for wave was the limited userbase and the sucky performance.

Re:It takes 20 years (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326962)

It has been known for quite awhile that it takes 20 years for new/radical technology to be adopted. They expected it to take less time because they are Google

I was going to say that, to be fair, they've pushed other tech to widespread adoption pretty quickly. Google Earth/Maps, Google Search, ... however, the more I think about it, the less it seems that anything Google have done is really new tech. For examples:

Google Search = Altavista (although definitely bigger+better)
Google Maps/Earth = GIS
Gmail = a zillion other webmail apps
Google Reader = just RSS
Chrome = Webkit (= KHTML)
Google Translate = Babelfish (although apparently using a much cooler statistical algorithm?)
Mapreduce = Refresh of techniques that were considered outdated
Google Talk = Jabber
Google Voice = VOIP ...

Re:It takes 20 years (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327252)

But new tech rarely takes off, what happens is that someone comes up with new tech and then someone else makes it worthwhile to use. Ever heard of the IXI? It was the first MP3 player, but it didn't take off until Apple and a few other companies took that idea and made it be worthwhile. Ford didn't make the first car, but he refined it. While its true that most everything Google has done was done before, the ideas weren't fully developed until Google took over.

Too radical? It's IRC with pictures! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326250)

How did this end up on slashdot?

Google Wave was IRC with pictures. There is nothing radical or innovative about that.

Epic failure of logic (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326290)

Incremental, gradual change is not radical change. The problem is that incremental, gradual, and radical have definitions, and those definitions are not synonymous.

Stop trying to excuse Googles failures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326304)

Oh stop it already, Google Wave failed because it was a piece of crap and badly engineered software, not because it was "too radical". It was an awful idea trying to clone unix talk and no hype in the world could have saved it. Stop trying to pretend it's the users fault that it failed, it was barely even functional after a conversation had gone on for more than 100 lines (something that we fill up on IRC in about 10 minutes), what did they expect?!

Re:Stop trying to excuse Googles failures (1)

CayceeDee (1883844) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326512)

Wave wasn't supposed to be a chat program. I think too many people think like you did. If you used it as a chat program then you misused it and shouldn't be suprised that it failed as a chat program. It was supposed to give people a way to collaborate on documents and projects. The ability to talk at the same time was just a bonus

Re:Stop trying to excuse Googles failures (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326826)

If people were "misusing" it it is because Google was doing a poor job in explaining how to use it the "right way" was.

Wave was actually interesting (3, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327120)

If you used it as a chat program then you misused it and shouldn't be suprised that it failed as a chat program. It was supposed to give people a way to collaborate on documents and projects.

Are you sure about that?

My impression was that it was intended to be a replacement for email, im, and other realtime communication systems on the net. It wasn't an app to help with projects or conversations; it was a protocol/server platform for messaging, just like the SMTP protocol and mailserver that makes up email, but more flexible. I think the idea was to replace email, IM, web forums, twitter, etc. all with one flexible, scalable platform that could handle new kinds of data, provide gateways to disparate systems (connect your IM to your SMS, or your webcam to your audio-only phone, for instance), and to make it all expandable by bots which could do automated processing of messages.

It actually could have been very cool, but it was too big for the PITIFUL amount of weight google threw behind it. They didn't believe in their product. If they had, they would have built an exchange-killing open source mail/groupware server on top of it, which was fully backwards-compatible with Email, IM (including MSN as part of the exchange-killing thing), etc.

THAT needed to be a radical product launch. None of this beta crap; a SOLID, powerful, game-changing release of free server code for everyone to install and use. Where the gradual change comes in is integrating their translation engine to make global communication possible, integrating google voice, integrating reader, and generally taking the world by storm by combining all their existing products into one great solution that had ZERO competition.

Now that would have been radical. Launching a half-baked idea with a horrible web-ui and some code for a cut-down version that no one cared enough to look at? Not so much.

Re:Wave was actually interesting (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327664)

Honestly, I don't see why you NEED the functionality of wave to do the things you are talking about there.

Really, your argument is that wave combined all protocols together into one platform and this fact in itself made it into a killer app of the future?

But is that truly so radically different from an entire suit of applications that do similar stuff, even Skype can do most of what Wave was doing (if not everything, it wouldn't be a problem of the protocol, it would be a problem of GUI for Skype.)

Really, Wave is not MUCH better than Skype or I don't know, ICQ.

Do you know what Wave REALLY lacked? An interface that could actually COMPETE with SKYPE!

Yeah, if they made a useful interface that could compete with skype, then they could have an actual product.

They killed it too early (1)

15Bit (940730) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326316)

A revolutionary rethinking of how we communicate will always take time to gain inertia. Real people have busy schedules, and you can't just tell everyone you are ditching email etc and moving onto the Wave: You have to get reluctant collaborators onboard and lineup a good project or two with which to get the hang of it at the start. This is never going to happen in 3 months, and i think google know this. I can't help but feel that they cancelled for some fundamental failing that they are not talking about.

Still, i hope it doesn't go away. It has so much potential that it deserves to be developed.

Re:They killed it too early (2, Interesting)

diegocg (1680514) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326406)

No, it doesn't, at least according to this rule: "Any software in this century that reinvents the scroll bar deserves to fail" - http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/2010/lessons-from-wave-and-kin/ [scottberkun.com]

Re:They killed it too early (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326974)

Did it work on mobile phone? All the screen shots and videos I saw were clearly desktop size. Any communications system that doesn't work on mobile device will fail - not matter what you do with the scrollbars.

Re:They killed it too early (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327474)

This is exactly why I don't believe Wave was ever designed to succeed as a product in its own right. It was public beta for experimental web-based UI elements that Google was thinking of integrating into its other products.

"worried about having too many geniuses." (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326380)

Yes, all those glorious geniuses who never found a way to make Wave work... more like pretentious geniuses.
I hate the word genius. There isn't a thing alive on Earth known as a genius. A true genius would be capable of doing anything thrown at them given the right things to do it with.
Google just has people specialized in certain areas of knowledge, with decent intelligence. Yes, there might be some people who can give you an IQ of 200, but that doesn't mean a damn thing since said IQ can vary in meaning between everyone.
Some can be great with numbers but awful with equations, great with spacial awareness but awful at remembering where to go in said space.

Want to know why Wave failed? Google, an advertising company, never advertised it enough. They never gave it enough time either.
It wasn't an issue with UI, yes, it was awful, but it worked. People use bloody Facebook and Microsoft Project every day and they have to have the worst UI annoyances in existence.
Not only that, their expectations were set WAY TOO HIGH.
They never made it that accessible from the beginning.
They released its existence way too early.

Google are always too focused on stupid shiny bells and whistles at the expense of speed, WRONG WRONG WRONG.
They also had way too much going on in the UI, event handlers flying out the nose especially.
Too many event handlers were the main reason for Wave slowdowns when they get larger. Worse yet is the fact they had fade-in animations, and real-time message updates pretty much just kicked it in the nuts when it came to speed.

If they integrated it in to Gmail, or even replaced the Gmail UI with something based on Wave (conversation system in Gmail would benefit from that), THAT could have worked.
Who knows, maybe they might still get it working. But at the moment, they have been a massive failure when it came to dealing with Wave.
It was a failure before it even got a chance. The doctor couldn't save the poor kid.
 

Re:"worried about having too many geniuses." (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326872)

That's not true, genius is generally defined with respect to the population in general. Generally the top percentage point or two. IQ isn't defined in a way which varies, it's main problem is that it's perhaps too tightly defined. IQ is a way of estimating the capacity for certain types of thought and reasoning as well as memory. What a person does with that capacity is not related to that even the slightest bit. Most of the differences comes from personal interest. I've got interests so I've spent a large amount of time devoted to perfecting skills related to that. Mozart was considered by everybody to be a genius, but he worked his ass off to produce his body of work, he probably worked harder than anybody else, he just happened to have more resources to start with and as such got farther than others had.

Re:"worried about having too many geniuses." (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327584)

I think we define genius by looking at what they did, not by actually measuring their intellect or skills. Let's be honest, almost all people who talk about geniuses are not geniuses themselves or even personally know one. It's when some breakthrough happens that we stick the label "genius" to it's inventor.

As to Google has a brain drain effect on the rest of the industry (actually, which industry are we talking about here? Advertising?), that's just Google's way of saying "come here, we are still the best company to work for, but in case we don't hire you, you are just too smart." Everyone says they hire the best and brightest. The difference is they have different definitions of the best and brightest.

Failure after 3 months? (5, Interesting)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326408)

Google Wave was a collaboration tool, and that made it nearly useless during its limited preview. It was available generally for less than three months before Google killed it. That would be a ridiculously short time for any new service, let alone for one that actually requires network effects to become useful.

I don't know whether Google Wave would have replaced E-mail or chat; it had the potential to do that, but that was far off. But it was an excellent collaboration tool. It could have been Google's replacement for Sharepoint, Lotus Notes, and systems like that, and it looked like it was on track for that. Incremental changes to GMail are not going to cut it.

With killing Wave, Google killed something that could have become quite important for them in the future. And they also killed the good will and trust of a lot of developers and users.

Google should have given Wave three years, not three months, of general availability.

Re:Failure after 3 months? (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327298)

It was also too damned slow. Maybe they figured out that computers need to be a lot faster before it will function on the lowest common denominator machines, and will release it under another name in a few years.

Re:Failure after 3 months? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33327336)

Google Wave was a collaboration tool, and that made it nearly useless during its limited preview. It was available generally for less than three months before Google killed it. That would be a ridiculously short time for any new service, let alone for one that actually requires network effects to become useful.

I don't know whether Google Wave would have replaced E-mail or chat; it had the potential to do that, but that was far off. But it was an excellent collaboration tool. It could have been Google's replacement for Sharepoint, Lotus Notes, and systems like that, and it looked like it was on track for that. Incremental changes to GMail are not going to cut it.

With killing Wave, Google killed something that could have become quite important for them in the future. And they also killed the good will and trust of a lot of developers and users.

Google should have given Wave three years, not three months, of general availability.

This!

Basic people power games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326436)

... focus on smaller transformations of our day-to-day lives rather than leapfrogging

Because the power base of the current controlling interests is too large and cannot leapfrog. The current power base will only take steps forward which do not require them to surrender their stability. Leapfrogging is not a stable type movement for large power bases and organizations.

The only way to get my department away from proprietary Unix based infrastructure to LInux based infrastructure was by replacing the people. Now Unix admins from other departments are asking how to change to Linux. But they are unwilling to leapfrog their skillset; despite the minimal change required. Because it's easier to defend their infrastructure with their large budget.

Basic people power games.

technology for other apps (4, Interesting)

Ubertech (21428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326474)

I think this is one instance where Google's limited release method failed spectacularly. When they started to release Wave, I had a bunch of people in mind to collaborate with, but only one or two of us had it. By the time it was available to the majority of us, we had already gone back to using other means of communication, including Google's own docs. For all its potential, we ended up only having two active waves of substance. Hopefully they'll be able to incorporate some of the more interesting concepts into Gmail or Gtalk, and I think Docs already has some simultaneous editing features. So wave may live on, just not as wave.

Re:technology for other apps (2, Interesting)

elysiana (1152995) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326712)

I absolutely agree; one of my biggest frustrations was trying to get people I know to join so I could try it out. By the time I got the fifth person to sign up, persons 1, 2, and 3 had gotten bored with it and didn't want to give it a shot with more people involved.

I really think it should have been made a part of Gmail so that anyone with a Gmail account could get on the bandwagon and give it a shot, rather than expecting people to sign up for this new scary thing where they have to open *yet another* link to check each day. It's like forums - people say "I'd rather join an e-list so I can just check my email and see what's going on, instead of going to another website."

I think it really had potential and I wish email had been like this from the beginning; but it's a *collaboration* tool. How am I supposed to really collaborate when only two people I know have joined and are willing to try it?

Re:technology for other apps (2, Insightful)

Shillo (64681) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327198)

You nailed it on the head.

Wave utterly depends on all your friends having it. At the same time, Google deployed it in the way that reliably prevented your friends from having it.

KDE 4 (2, Interesting)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326498)

Probably was being too radical more than the initial stability problems and bugs what hurt the grow that KDE was having by the time the version 4 was introduced. Still, as was basically "the" direction to follow with the entire platform (you could leave it going to gnome, stay with kde 3.x while all the apps move forward, or adapt to the new approach) it survived, and now is growing (not having hard numbers of gnome, kde and other linux desktops, but i think it went that way)

Re:KDE 4 (2, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327166)

Nope. KDE 4 failed because the core developers saw themselves as smarter than their users. They saw KDE4 as a hobby project that they did for their own personal challenge; because they knew the code, they knew what it needed to become, users' needs (and expressed preferences) be damned.

The idea was too big, or not big enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326684)

I'm reminded of Plan 9 from Bell labs failing to overthrow the Linux community, because so much time and effort has already been invested in the thing that works just good enough (plain old e-mail in this case).

You can't start a wave without a market need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326756)

Obviously I can't speak for others but in my daily work I have no need for adhoc collaboration of this sort. I can certainly see it being useful in some contexts.

There have been similiar systems providing "shared workspaces" in existance for quite some time so I don't understand the "its new" or "bleeding edge" crap. Technology is about solving problems. If there is no market need then it doesn't matter how "advanced" or how much time was put into a product. This is not a product failure - its a market research failure.

Experimental Product, Small Platform (1)

techSage (716096) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326764)

The real reason that Wave has failed to gather the following of so many other great ideas is that they launched an experimental product that they hoped would go viral and become wildly successful, but they restricted it to the smallest group of people possible: those that don't use Internet Explorer. They probably thought that the "explosion" of popularity of Wave would help them grab browser market share (or at least take it away from IE), but they failed miserably at that as IE usage is actually up now. The claim was that they were focusing their efforts on the quality of the product or some crap like that, so they didn't want to waste time on IE compatibility, but not supporting the browser that had and still has the largest share of the market is just suicide. And let's face it, it's not like it's that hard to get an AJAX app to work in IE - I did it before it was cool and that app still purrs on IE, Firefox & Safari without me really trying to support them. So it seems to me that Google deliberately "broke" Wave on IE. Which means they did the opposite of what they were claiming to do: not wasting time on IE; instead they wasted time on making it not work and wated time on trying to get browser share. Lesson learned? I doubt it. And I'm pretty sure no one here will agree or learn from the lesson, but at least I've tried. The lesson, in case you didn't get it, is: don't launch a product that people might have a hard time seeing the need for to the most restricted segment of a population: those not running IE (you can apply this to other markets, too).

How frustrating to watch programmers debate this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326818)

I know I'm talking to /.ers, but don't you people get it, yet? "Too many geniuses" that's rich. How about: it is the natural problem of developers that your focus is on *the tech* (it's what spins your beanies, after all) and not on the sloppy, incomplete, confusing human/social/aspirational context and nature of your end users? It's all part and parcel of why open source won't be an answer to this kind of thing either (did anybody spit out at least some breakfast cereal when FF named their skins "personas"?). It's not about "not being so genius-y" or "incremental innovation" or "a hive approach". You just need to recognize that you need other members on your team - radically other members. You need folks that are more psychologists and ethnologists than they are technologists (an aversion to technology might well be a strength for someone on this part of the team) to provide a framework and focus for you to go to town inventing the technical means to achieve the well described ends of your end users (end users who are not frickin' YOU -- and most often not AT ALL like you). Why is this taking so long?

Wave's problems were about control and lack of it (2, Interesting)

npcole (251514) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326834)

Google did a great job creating an open protocol. But they made two mistakes:

1. They were not open enough. Although they had suggested that people would be able to build their own clients (and demoed a curses based client) they never opened an API for writing a wave client. They wanted it to be a flagship web application - but just as people like all sorts of different clients for email (even if many now like web clients), they would probably have liked client choice for wave - especially if 3rd party clients had shown waves along side email and the like.

2. They were too open. Their programming model for wave (web-hosted applications with read and write access to your wave) had huge security implications. It was not clear from the UI who would have access to your data and when.

Both of these were things that slowed adoption of wave.

XMPP for email (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326838)

Instead of Wave, what Google should do with XMPP is evolve it into a replacement for SMTP/POP3 and probably IMAP. At the same time, evolve Atom (the format, not the protocol, obviously) to replace parts of RFC 5322 that are not covered in XMPP. Properly done the transition could be gradual and invisible to the end users. Then IM, multi-user chat, email, and feeds would all have the same underpinnings.

Wave fails if bad; but revolutionary change works (3, Interesting)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326868)

Google Wave stands or fails on its features and merits. And the Wave idea is actually incrementally seeping in across the Google suite of products, so the original article is simply... silly (stupid!).

In regards to the original topic, "Revolutionary" change, especially in software, is often remarkably... effective in sweeping away the ghosts of the past which weigh upon the minds of the present.

As example, a gem from the days of Wang [ephblog.com] which I just came across:

As an example of this strategy, a frustrated developer wrote Wang’s second generation e-mail system (Wang Office) over a long weekend. In his view–and he was right–the official spec meetings were taking too long. So he decided to cut through the bullshit and just code the thing (he’d designed Wang’s first generation e-mail system, Mailway, so he knew what he was doing). He sent out the new code to several large accounts, they loved it, and started calling headquarters asking, “We have the checkbook out–how do we buy this great e-mail system?” Back at headquarters, everyone (except for Steve) was going, “Huh, what are you talking about?” Once management realized that (1) customers wanted to buy it now and (2) doing it the “official” way would take another 18 months, they swallowed their pride, shot the official project, and gave Steve a small official slap while privately lauding his initiative.

/me files Matt Asay in the [bullshit|?|clueless|lost|confused] category.

Wave really wasn't that good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33326890)

Yes, it was a cool concept.
The implementation however was not good enough, simply too unwieldy.

New Is Wonderful (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33326944)

I see no reason to discourage either radical new hardware nor radical new software. It will flower or perish on its own merits.

Re: New Is Wonderful (2, Insightful)

s1sfx (1883880) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327598)

I see no reason to discourage either radical new hardware nor radical new software. It will flower or perish on its own merits.

Couldn't agree more! There is way too much "sticking a tail on it and calling it a weasel" going on anyway and way not enough REAL innovation. Which creates all these super-clumsy, over-inflated monstrosities that don't even do the job they're supposed to be doing properly any longer. Einstein said "When the solution is simple, God is smiling." That's real genius, nothing else will do!

Error in title (2, Insightful)

heffrey (229704) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327074)

Should have been, "Google Wave and the difficulty of flogging stuff that's shit"

Linux Lesson (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327402)

He suggests that visionaries should focus on smaller transformations of our day-to-day lives rather than leapfrogging. 'Much as it may want to radically change the world for users and developers, radical change generally happens over time, through a series of incremental,

I once suggested the Linux distributions try to mirror some Windows conventions and naming to make it easier for users to adjust, and was modded to oblivion on Slashdot. Windows is the de-facto standard whether you want it to be or not. I realize one has to strike a delicate balance between security and being Windows-like, but that's where the hard work lies, not some new trinket or feature. And there's still some low-hanging fruit that doesn't involve security compromises, but rather things like vocabulary and placement. I'm just the messenger, I didn't create the de-facto standards and human nature.
     

Re:Linux Lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33328222)

Yeah well, nobody's listening to you because you're a self-important cunt.

Am I the only one who thinks Wave didn't fail? (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33327894)

It didn't have time to fail. The article correctly points to the fact that e-mail took 40 years to become as widespread as it is today. When it began it was an unrecognizable form of communication, a huge sea-change if it were to ever be adopted. People didn't even really know what computers were, let alone understand networks. Yes, it provided a nice electronic metaphor for the regular mail letter, which let people grasp it more easily. But everything else about it was still fundamentally alien.

But something happened. First people began to get used to email, and then people began to prefer email to communicate. Over the next few decades it spread like wildfire, to the point where now over a billion people use it every day.

Wave didn't even have time to begin such a process. It was announced as a collaboration tool on May 27, 2009. On August 4, 2010 it was canceled. A little more than a year and a half. Compared to 40 years for e-mail?

Give it time to breath. It seems stupid to invest so much money and effort into a product and then drop it if it doesn't acquire a million users right away. I think Google, structurally speaking, might have ADD - it is so used to overnight success that it's not willing to accept a slower rate of adoption, even if the pay off could be huge.

There is a time for everything under the sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33327910)

There is a time for incremental changes and a time for radical changes. The trick is figuring when that is.

not that mysterious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33327996)

Brilliant concept, well executed from the engineering standpoint, but never could really get legs under it. In the end Wave was shut down because the adoption rate was considered too low & slow by those responsible for overseeing its budget.

Post mortem

- the initial release was cautious and tentative to avoid risk of being seen as responsible for any high profile snafus.
- much misplaced focus on the "behold the coolness of what we can do with HTML 5 someday"
- missed huge wins by not launching with existing communication methods pre-wired, eg, incoming email|SMS|chat|Tweet -> Wave -> outgoing email|SMS|chat|Tweet
- Buzz came along to give the whole team a distracting "WtF are we working for the same company?" moment

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