Google Says Goodbye to Wave

Highly touted collaboration software didn't get the adoption rate Google had hoped.

Say so long to Google Wave. The search giant killed the ambitious collaboration software despite what it said were "numerous loyal fans."

The Wave project was kept under wraps until it's surprise debut at Google's I/O developer conference in May 2009. In a blog post Wednesday, Google admitted that while it was excited by Wave's potential, it was never sure how broadly it would be accepted.

"Developers in the audience stood and cheered. Some even waved their laptops," Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of operations and a Google Fellow, said in the blog. "We were equally jazzed about Google Wave internally, even though we weren’t quite sure how users would respond to this radically different kind of communication."

The Google Wave application offered real-time communication in the browser, including character-by-character live typing so users could see each instant message being created before it was sent. Wave also let users "playback" the history of changes to a document or communications session from within the browser.

Initially, Wave was only available in a developer preview test version and later as an invitation-only beta. It was only a few months ago in May that Google made Wave available for free to anyone. But the early returns apparently convinced the company it was time to move on.

Hölzle noted that Wave had several innovative features, like sharing images and other media in real time and advanced spell-checking that offered word corrections based on the context in the sentence. He also said third-party developers used Wave to build new tools like online consumer gadgets for travel and robots to check code.

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

Another issue that may have sealed Wave's fate is that it wasn't the only collaboration tool Google was promoting. The company's mainstay Google Apps offers document sharing and chat functions and the newer Google Buzz also offered real-time status updates and communications.

Analyst Maribel Lopez said she wasn't surprised by the news of Wave's demise.

"The Google Apps suite was going in the same direction and it didn't make sense to have two efforts there and Buzz totally overlapped," Lopez, CEO and founder of Lopez Research, told

And even with its advanced features, Lopez said Wave might have been a tough sell to users who weren't ready to commit to another platform.

"It wasn't anchored to anything else," she added. "Microsoft and IBM do well in collaboration because they can offer services that are anchored to email and can make the case for enhancing collaboration. But I think Google was having a tough time convincing people they needed another full tool that was separate from what they already had."

Hölzle said Google will stop developing Wave as a standalone product, but plans to maintain the site at least through the end of this year. The company also plans to extend Wave's technology for use in other Google projects.

"The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began," the post said.

For current Wave users, Hölzle said Google plans to work on tools designed to help them easily "liberate their content" so that it remains accessible.

According to a Google spokesperson, no one involved in the Wave project will be laid off as a result of its closure. "No one will be losing their job," he said in an emailed statement.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.




Tags: Google, Google Apps, google buzz, instant messaging, Wave


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