Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Hasn't Google Wave Gone Viral?

I received an invitation to get Google Wave and, with serious intent, decided to give it a whirl. After all, I had initial misgivings about Facebook and twitter, but now you can't blow me off of either one with a stick of dynamite. I figured (reluctantly...how many ways to communicate do I really need?) that Wave would be the next big app in my life to consume what little time I don't have. I even wrote a review on Wave a few weeks ago, so I was on my way, right? Wrong. What happened?

I logged into Wave for the first time in three days this morning and found a "wave" from someone making the same statement I just did. She said:

I know! That's what's "un-useful" about it - I always forget to check mine to so I just revert back to Twitter and email - you know - those "oh so out of date" tools! ;-)

I don't get it. I remember when Gmail was "by invitation only", and now every one has Gmail and I use it as my default webmail. I've pimped my Google home page with a customized theme and all manner of gadgets I use to keep track of my social networking. Google has me hooked as far as that part goes, so what's the problem with me extending my "addiction" to Wave?

The question that seems to come up from the people I do use Wave with is "what am I supposed to use this thing for?" I managed to add about a dozen people to my Wave address book, but conversations have stalled. I've started following a few public Waves to see if I could join in on a conversation, but they're hard to follow. Nothing seems linear. When a new contribution has been made to a Wave, it isn't at the top or bottom of the stream as you'd expect (as in a "conversation" in Gmail, for instance), nor does the Wave automatically focus on the new addition.

I think part of the problem is in trying to find information to make practical use of Wave. For instance, in attempting to do the research for this blog, I did some Google searches (what else?), but searching for "why hasn't Google Wave gone viral" doesn't yield a great deal of useful data. I managed to locate the article Why We Are Cautious About Google's Wave, but frankly, it didn't do much to answer my question. It was written soon after Wave was first introduced, so the information has "aged" somewhat (at least in Internet time).

Next, I tried searching Wave itself. I figured if anyone would be talking about the use of Wave, or lack thereof, it would be Wave users. Am I wrong? Facing the Wave UI, I realized I'd forgotten how to search for public Waves. A little Googling later, I found The First Google Wave Search You Must Know and with a mere with:public, pulled up an endless list of public Waves. Gee, how unique. Now how do I find the one I want? I don't want to read a book and I don't want to scan a 14 page web guide. Like most people in our Microwave oven, Google search engine, instant gratification world, I want to ask a quick question and get a quick answer.

I don't remember having this sort of problem getting on board with twitter, and realistically speaking, I haven't been using twitter all that long. Sure, Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein wrote The Twitter Book, but I didn't use it to "learn twitter" (it actually wasn't a really great book, and I ended up donating it to my local public library after reviewing it). When I needed to know something about twitter, I either asked another twitter person or Googled it. I usually found the little tidbit I needed (who has time to read a whole "dissertation" like this blog?) and away I went.

I have an interest in Microsoft's SharePoint platform (don't ask...it's a long story), and am following a few public Waves on the topic. This is a frequently asked question: "Is Wave a SharePoint killer?" and the general consensus is "no" (despite Om Malik's prediction in his previously mentioned blog). Sure, Wave is extendable with just oodles of APIs, but in what direction does one "extend" Wave to make it usable and (dare I say it) intuitive? Why does it seem so hard to use Wave?

It occurred to me that either Google never intended Wave to be particularly useful to the average end user crowd, or they initially targeted the wrong audience. Speaking of SharePoint, I find myself wondering if Wave is intended (or should be intended) for the business, rather than the general public space? Everything else is going into the cloud, why not enterprise collaboration? This seems to be the thought of David Cook at The Shiny Wave blogspot. Perhaps my failure to launch, relative to Wave, is due to my being the wrong person to use it, or at least my using Wave in the wrong context.

Of course, I've tried Delicious, Friendfeed, Plaxo, Plurk, and other online social apps and promptly walked away, not feeling "the hook" sink deeply into my flesh, so maybe Wave is just another passing fancy that didn't take hold in my life. Then again, I didn't bother to review any of those apps and or dedicate two (so far) blog articles to them, so Wave must have made some sort of impression on me.

It can't be lack of information. Doing a general search on Google Wave produces a ton of results, including guides at Mashable and Lifehacker, so quality tech affectionados feel Google Wave is worth spending time and resources on. On the other hand, getting a specific piece of information seems excessively difficult, such as how to find a specific public Wave discussing why Wave hasn't "gone viral", so is that it? What's the problem? Is it Wave or (gulp) is it me?

Afterword: I just added a public wave: "Why Hasn't Google Wave Gone Viral" and made it accessible to everyone (Thanks for the tip, Google). Let the games begin.



  1. I think you need to give Google wave a chance, I havent touched it yet. Though I know as soon as big media starts to get involved I will be dragged in. Acording to wikipedia(sounds roughly right) twitter started mid 2006. It wasnt until the start of 2009 that I noticed a big splash in the none tech world. Hell I didnt touch microblogging until last year. In three years wave will either be replaced by goolge or a booming success.

    Thanks for the blog, Its nice seeing a blog post with some content

  2. Google Wave isn't a product is my conclusion. That's why people don't really get it and why they don't really use it. It's a tool for other things whereas the point of the products Facebook and Twitter are exactly what they are.

    The reason for this (don't know about Twitter) but for Facebook is purely to make cash, hence you have to be immediately captured (personally I hate Facebook as it serves no need I have that can't be better met through other means).

    The way Wave will take off is for service that are products like Facebook to appear on it or needing it.

  3. Wave certainly seems more intended for a commercial environment in that it reminds me of Groove (I believe Ray Ozzie's project, until Microsoft assimilated it and him). I tried doing multiple Wave searches and got no results, even on terms that should by all rights have had a ton of them, and that alone has kept me from doing anything with it.

  4. I suspect there are probably many reasons, not the least of which is that almost nothing—in the grand scheme of things—actually “goes viral”. But even if Google wave is, potentially, one of those things that could go viral, it simply is not ready.

    I blogged more about this here.

  5. It is still very young and underdeveloped.
    Look, putting Wave on its feet is really an enormous undertaking, because the foundation is amazingly broad. Its potential for enriching electronic interaction beyond our current methods may be analogous to the shift to television broadcasting from radio broadcasting. It can not be developed overnight. It's much too rich and heavy a medium to catch afire the way thin fumes do. Consider the development of Personal Computers - how little we did with them in the early nineteen-eighties compared to what we do now. Google's vision is of a kind of "Active Web" with Wave as one of its more powerful inter-mediators.


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