Google to kill Wave, disappointed at user adoption

5 Aug 2010

Launched amid fanfare and tipped to kill email, the real-time communications system Google Wave is to be no more. Google says it is killing development of the product because it didn’t achieve the user adoption it would have liked.

In a move that epitomises Google’s philosophy on product development – “try it and if it doesn’t work kill it and think of something else” – the company said it will continue to support Wave for at least another year.

Urs Hölzle, senior vice-president, Operations, and Google Fellow, said the goal has always been to achieve breakthroughs in computer science that improve users’ lives. He said the real-time communication and collaboration possible in Wave set a high bar for what could be possible within a web browser.

“We showed character-by-character live typing, and the ability to drag-and-drop files from the desktop, even ‘playback’ the history of changes – all within a browser.

“The use cases we’ve seen show the power of this technology: sharing images and other media in real time; improving spell checking by understanding not just an individual word, but also the context of each word; and enabling third-party developers to build new tools like consumer gadgets for travel, or robots to check code.”

But, he said, despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave just did not achieve the user adoption Google would have liked.

“We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the 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. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily ‘liberate’ their content from Wave.”

In other words, don’t be too surprised if elements of Wave, in particular real-time communication and content sharing, re-emerge as part of Google’s anticipated social networking service and even its planned online gaming system.

“Wave has taught us a lot, and we are proud of the team for the ways in which they have pushed the boundaries of computer science. We are excited about what they will develop next as we continue to create innovations with the potential to advance technology and the wider web,” Hölzle said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years