Google Wave is now officially one year old today, but despite Google’s admirable year long dedication to Wave as well as opening it up to anyone with a Google account last week at Google I/O, we’re wondering if people are ever going to show up to the party.
Yes, Google has gone to great lengths to say that Wave is being used by schools, for collaboration, at conferences, etc, but many of these uses seem to be for academics/education, and not the general public. Certainly, people receive a better education when they collaborate, but there were plenty of existing online collaboration tools available to educators long before Wave debuted. Heard of IM?
Doesn’t really meet a need
Wave has the same problem one year in as it did when it launched – it doesn’t really meet any real needs. We have phones, Skype and IM for real-time communication, we’ve got Google Docs to collaboratively edit docs online, we’ve got picture and video sharing services, and yes, we have email, which in case you haven’t forgotten was supposed to be made obsolete by Wave. Even a one year old can figure out that that hasn’t happened.
To help the earthquake response in Haiti, Crisis Camps sprung up all over the world to crowdsource and map information coming from the disaster zone. During the first day of camps, many people suggested that volunteers use Wave to collaborate, but it quickly became apparent that it just didn’t do anything better than other existing tools (including Etherpad, which Google acquired to integrate into Wave). It’s true that a few people did decide to push forward using Wave, but the vast majority of the volunteers didn’t.
That said, we at The Next Web use Wave to coordinate our weekly podcast – but while it does the job, it doesn’t particularly do the job better than email or our internal social network would.
It’s just an experiment, live with it
Wave is an experiment, and Google would be best served if it keeps that in mind. Perhaps it will attract a loyal following among academics and educators, and frankly, that’s not a bad thing – online collaboration software for education is a big (not Google big, but still big) business and if Wave can help people to get a better education, then it will have found a noble existence.
However, Google is in the fight of its life with Apple right now, and it needs to focus its energies like never before, so most likely Wave will never get out of Labs, will get a cult following from people that get it and that will be it. Email is safe for awhile yet.
If Google continues to push Wave as a revolutionary product that everyone will one day use, on the other hand, they could end up with cake on their faces.