The what of Google Wave

I was lucky enough to get an invite to try the beta of Google Wave last year. But after a few minutes of using it I decided to pass. I found it complicated and intrusive. But the platform had lots of early supporters (as well as detractors). The Huffington Post takes a look at what some of the technology pundits had to say about the platform in light of Google pulling the plug on development. I noticed they didn’t include Chris Brogran so here’s a look what he said as well.

Reading all of those opinions reminds me of the blind monks describing an elephant. Google used a lot of words to say what Wave did:

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

But none of them did a good job on saying what the benefit were in clear enough terms. When I read what the pudits wrote about it I read about it’s ability to kill a lot of things including email, Facebook and Twitter. But how does that compel me to use if I like those products?

I spent a part of my communications career working for Lotus on their Notes product so I know the challenges of trying to communicate the value of a new collaborative technology. It’s hard. But I was able to start using Notes and being productive on it very quickly. Wave, no.


Google made its mark on the world by emphasizing simplicity. The fact that it couldn’t come up with a simple explanation for Wave should have been a warning. I’m sure they’ll be back with another take on social very soon. My advice? If you can’t fit the description in one of the Google search boxes and have people immediately get it, you might want to rethink your positioning.


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