Friday, August 06, 2010

Why I'm sad at the death of Google Wave and what I believe about the future of its innovations

I remember those weeks of last year when a buzz started around Google Wave - with the Sci/Tech section of Google News filled almost each day with stories about Wave. For a few days, I kept myself from reading about it, so that I could focus on work, in the hope that I would look at Wave in detail over some weekend.

I first got to know Wave when I watched a few videos of Google's I/O developer conference. I clearly remember clapping many times as the video unveiled feature-after-feature of Wave.

I was fascinated. Some of the things I had been thinking about for a few years were the design principles of Wave - no forwarding of messages (it unnecessarily duplicates messages, wasting tons of storage space) or attachments (a single copy that's pulled-on-demand). More lovely features - comment/reply right next to the content that your comment/reply applies to (wow!), playback a conversation (think before you Wave), a context sensitive spell-checker/correcter (this is how you do spell-correction), permissions built right into the design, drag-and-drop support, real-time updates, Robots (what a bloody fantastic idea), and Gadgets (another '!' idea).

Wave was billed as the future of electronic communication - the way modern communication ought to be done. It blended the myriad of communication methods we use today, and there was no reason Wave couldn't absorb yet more of the discrete ways of contemporary communication (voice, video, etc.). Wave has potentially many applications - comments (on blogs, websites), collaborative communication, document creation, social networking (imagine Facebook's Messages or Wall features built using Wave), wikis, and so many other things we can't even imagine right now.

I saw tremendous power in Wave, and no matter how unfriendly it might have appeared initially, Wave is not a bad idea. Bloggers and so-called "tech journalists" might have invested thousands of man-hours on initially gushing about and eventually bashing Wave, what they didn't grasp (and still haven't grasped) is that Wave is a fundamentally novel idea. The current UI of Wave is just one of the possible implementations of its features and underlying design principles, and it's perfectly possible to redesign the UI while preserving Wave functionally, if the need be.

However, fact of the matter is that Google is discontinuing Wave. I personally believe that it's an impatient and a premature move by Google. A bad move. Discontinuation of Wave only months after its public rollout and only over a year after its unveiling reveals potentially dangerous impatience and a severe lack of persistence, more so for a product billed as the future of communication (with Xbox, Microsoft has demonstrated that persistence pays, and Bing has begun paying off as well).

I very strongly believe in the fundamental rightness of Wave's design principles and its many features, and I predict that these will be back soon, either from Google or from others.

No comments:

Post a Comment