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Shortly after the announcement of Google Wave I flew out to the Bay Area for the introductory hackathon. I was intrigued, in fact fascinated by the idea of a federated protocol layer to replace email, something that could empower collaboration and community building by distributing power across multiple nodes, instead of the overly centralized and unsecure model of Facebook or the defunct mode of email. A new form of communication was desperately needed and Wave seemed to bring together all the missing pieces for what could be a new era in computing and collaboration.
While most people talk about the product when they speak of Google Wave (as at the Harvard Business Review ), they show their lack of appreciation for what Google Wave was below the surface. Fundamentally, ultimately, Google Wave was a new way of looking at the world. It was in many ways a protocol with no particularly good interfaces, largely because it was so ambitious and because efforts were made to popularize Wave rather than finish promised work on core functionality.
This is unfortunate. While I was upset when I first read of the decision to “kill” Google Wave, I now feel that there is, in fact, even more potential. Approximately a month ago the Google Wave Developers blog promoted a new independent attempt to create a Google Wave powered online forum. Despite the recent announcement of Google Wave’s death, it seems that many people were inspired by Google Wave and will keep development moving forward.
What will they create? I’m afraid I must disagree with this posting on the Salesforce Developer Blog. Surely, some concepts (like online facebooks) require time to be appreciated and understood, but this is all the more reason for persistence, not giving up when there is no immediate response to an unfinished product. Sadly, it seems Google’s CEO never understood Wave. It was not a clever product, it was a vision in search of a product. And this unmaterialized vision that required more than a keynote speech, bit of marketing, and hope for rapid mass adoption.
The wider developer community waits and hopes that Google remains true to its original promise to open source the “lion’s share” of its code, including a working server and client. It is understandable that Google would take the great innovation started with Wave and roll it into its own products, but how can they say the problem is “user adoption” if they never delivered the tools originally promised?
Joel Dietz, Founder and CEO of Titania, Inc. has contributed to the Wave Protocol, edited articles on Operational Transformation, and developed multiple Google Wave Robots and Gadgets in his spare time. (cross posted at the Titania Blog)