Why Google Wave was a Failure

Dear Mr Schmidt,

Your quote on the BBC News article about Google drops Wave because of lack of users was interesting. You said “It’s a very clever product. You never know why it didn’t work”. Obviously you’re not as clever as you think your product is.

When Google Wave launched, the crowd stood up, applauded and the YouTube videos that were released made Wave look awesome. Instant view of what other people were typing, the ability to change your previous comments (and indeed, other peoples), the slider to see the history, being able to upload images and the ability to make lots of bots to run inside the thing.

The problem is, no-one wanted any of these features. Clever – yes. Useful – no.

The slider is only there since the complexity of the conversation was far too great. The complexity was far too great since you could reply to anyone anywhere as well as changing previous messages. This in itself is fairly horrible since the conversation then isn’t linear. Ever heard of why people don’t like top-posting on email? Uploading images are ho-hum, email already does previews for image attachments (and why do we need any more than that). All ‘Chat’ protocols out there don’t do the ‘show as you type’ thing – mainly because no-one wants it (how often do you type something and then delete it … lots). Finally, bots … more annoying than the ability to change anyone’s message … you get my drift.

Add to the fact that all the features you guys trumpeted as amazing, ambitious and new, was the slowness of actually making it work. And yes, even in Chrome it was slow. Painfully slow. Your whole company is based on speed, decreasing page load times, minimising JavaScript and CSS, having a minimal search page, updating old (HTTP) protocols for new ones (SPDY), making JavaScript go faster and deferring loads of content until after page ready … so why oh why oh why would you think a painfully slow application – such as Wave – should be any different to EVERYTHING your company stands for and yet be sucessful.

As for the things it was hyped up to do: Productivity – nope, it was too slow. Wiki(ish) – nope, it was too complicated. Conversation – nope, it was too surreal (after all, when have you been able to edit other people’s past conversation?).

Finally, it was immediately obvious to myself and the majority of my friends (that is, only two thought Wave was any good) that Wave wasn’t what Google trumpeted it as. It was in fact, a gimmick. A fun game that kept us occupied for exactly one afternoon, after which people said “Now I’m done, don’t think I’ll do that again”. Kind of like playing a new game only to realise that it has no longevity. No usefulness. No future.

So if it was painfully obvious to the rest of the world (ok, 98% of Wave users) that it was annoying, why wasn’t it obvious to you and your team. After all, you do champion measuring what your users are doing. If 98% aren’t logging in much after the first day, surely that’s a sign it’s not going well. I’m surprised it took you a year to figure that out.

All the best, Andy

Tags: googlewave

Posted: 07 August 2010