Is Google Wave Succeeding?

This is an excerpt from a Wave posted by John Blossom. (  I don’t think I can link to a wave from my blog so I had to copy/paste and give John credit. It’s a good review of Wave pros and cons that I wanted to make it available here (outside of Wave).

While Google Wave is only in a technical preview, it’s an aggressive program to expose its capabilities to a wide range of everyday people – and, in the process of doing so, building buzz to get people excited about its possibilities. This, in turn, is expected to drive the development of applications and gadgets that will enhance the value of its API and underlying protocols. As developers see an audience growing, more functions will be available through Wave APIs.

It’s easy to forget that what we see in Wave today in this preview is just that – an HTML 5 application that helps Google to exercise the underpinnings of the Wave protocol and API. For those of you viewing this wave on Apple platforms via Waveboard you already have a taste of how Wave apps, like apps used to extend the capabilities of platforms such as Twitter and WordPress, can accelerate the power of Wave to adapt to many uses.

Still, what most people will encounter as their “hello world” experience of Wave will be the standard Web browser-based application. What are some of the early pros and cons that Wave is showing from this general debut? Here are a few thoughts:


  • Rapid and effortless collaboration. While Wave as it exists today is not a replacement for every type of collaborative communication, it is truly amazing how effective it can be for 80 percent of what most people need out of a collaboration platform. Simple messages can turn into document repositories and in turn become knowledge repositories as people edit those document and add their comments. After years of trying to get other collaborative platforms to succeed, Wave’s instant ability to attract participation will be one of its strongest powers.
  • A unique blend of real-time messaging, applications and online documents. While it can be frustrating at times dealing with Wave’s flexiblity, the ability of Wave to support a number of styles of publishing and communications simultaneously in a single document is perhaps its greatest strength. In an instant you can embed an application into a wave to gather data or share multimedia, video and voice exchanges. A comment can become a chat instantly. Casual notes can be structured into more formal documents rapidly and collaboratively. Best of all, many of these can happen in ways that the originator of a wave may have never expected when it started. It’s the closest thing to what really happens in natural collaborative settings yet invented, in my view.
  • No reason ever to use email. Is there some reason why we’re forced to use a communication system in which 90 percent of the content is about drugs and physical relationships that we really don’t ever want to think about? Even when email works, the idea of sending a communication “to” someone is entirely different from the Wave concept of inviting someone “into” a communication. There will still be a place for “to”-style communications in a Wave-centric world, but Wave represents a better way to communicate, more like popping your head into someone’s office than sending a memo.
  • A second Read/Write Web. In its early phases it’s perhaps hard to think ahead to the full impact of what Wave offers the world, but in a sense I see Wave as a new communications environment not so different from the early World Wide Web. You can link to Web content in Wave, of course, but mostly people seem to wind up referring to content in Wave itself. Wave isn’t just email or messaging on steroids, it’s a new publishing environment that can have global, enterprise or cross-enterprise impact as easily as the Web itself. In this I think that Wave may have a substantially more powerful impact on the Web overall than Twitter or, probably, Facebook, which offer very specific types of content that cannot be expanded or referenced all that easily.


  • Poor “day one” orientation. Granted, the preview version of Wave is really not meant for your average novice, but even many social media veterans invited into wave take one look, say “Huh?” and are never heard from again. The basic videos that Google provides are useful enough, but in general the lack of pre-populated contacts for many people, no documentation supporting the public channel and the still-restricted invite system have limited participation to just a few enthusiasts for the most part.
  • Immature interface. Well, we have to be fair, what was email like forty years ago when it was invented? Google Wave’s preview app is years ahead of primitive email systems, but it still lacks a lot of basic usability and control options. This discourages people from using it productively. One of my ongoing complaints: why can’t I have a checkbox feature in the inbox that will allow me to apply an action like “archive” to multiple waves? Come on, Google, get us productive on this ASAP.
  • Poorly deployed public communications. The ability to publish and access content on a public channel on Wave is perhaps one of its most powerful features, enabling any conversation to turn into a global conversation very rapidly. But it’s also one of its most poorly implemented feature, kludgy at best to use and not tied into any sort of permissioning service. That’s good enough for a preview, but far from good enough for production versions of Wave applications. Hopefully the “Requests” channel becomes more useful as a way to filter public waves for consumption and participation.
  • Major privacy issues. To get things going Google has made it easy as pie to grab people’s Wave addresses to put in their Contacts list. How long will that stand the test of spammers looking to build up mailing lists, inviting everyone they can into their waves? Judging by some of the addresses and bots already on Wave, I think that the seeds of spamming are already sown. There needs to be a permission-based method for people to communicate with one another on Wave when they expose their participation in a channel outside of their trusted network.
  • Lackluster performance. While each day brings some modest improvements to the overall performance of Wave, in general any wave of any size tends to choke at some point or another, either in pulling it up, editing or archiving. Perhaps the new release of the Chrome browser is intended to mitigate some of those performance issues, but in the meantime if you click on a document to have it go out of your inbox, well, it should do that pretty lickety-split. All in time, but in the meantime first impressions abound of a poorly performing platform.

Overall, I do think that Wave is headed towards a major success, though. Its strategy is sound, aimed squarely in the gaps between other offerings such as the Web itself, enterprise services like SharePoint and CRM services and real-time messaging and social networking services. Google seeks out the “80 percent” solution oftentimes, leaving the other 20 percent needed to satisfy people to niche products or applications that can be driven by Google content and services. With that in mind, I do think that Wave will represent one of the most powerful 80 percent solutions available since browser-based Web access was introduced in the mid-1990s. In other words, it’s huge.

—- Wave posted by John Blossom

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