Google Wave Post Mortem - What Entrepreneurs Can Learn

Google Wave Post Mortem - What Entrepreneurs Can Learn

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Google has killed Google Wave. As there is a lot of discussion on it on various sites:

The feature list was amazing:

  • Realtime collaboration.
  • Realtime language translation.
  • Context aware spellchecking.
  • Drag & drop file sharing.
  • Instant replay of the chronological changes.
  • Open sourced protocol so that anyone could run a Wave server.

The goal was audacious. They wanted to replace email. Their tagline was “Imagine what email would look like if it were invented today.” Very inspirational.

Despite never really using it much, I’m disappointed. I watched the Google I/O video (abridged) about a year ago and thought it was pretty damn cool. I remember when I first got an invite. I was ecstatic! I opened it up and played around with it for about 10 mins. What now? I thought.

Someone on Reddit commented that they thought Google Wave was like the having a telephone but not having anyone to call. Why didn’t Google Wave succeed?

  • Was it because none of your friends or family were on it?
  • Was it because it wasn’t backwards compatible with email?
  • Was it because the Google Wave client ( was buggy?
  • Was it because Google didn’t promote it enough? Maybe they could have integrated it with Gmail?
  • Was it ahead of its time?

I think we as entrepreneurs can glean a few lessons from the demise of Wave.

  1. Flashy technology rarely means shit. Don’t get caught up into building something just because it’s cool or looks awesome or has super whizbang gadgets and gizmos.
  2. Solving problems matters. Do people really have a communication problem on the internet that IM/Email/Forums/Wiki can’t solve? Before Stackoverflow was built, the creators realized that existing web Q&A solutions suck. Email or IM don’t really suck for their intended use.
  3. If your product depends upon a network effect to be successful, make sure everyone and their dog can use it right away. Yes, I know… Google had an invite system for Gmail. You see, Gmail could still be used to email users on other email systems. Google Wave was the only Wave system. Google shouldn’t have used invites only.
  4. Marketing matters. If no one knows about your product, no one will come to use it. You have to put it in people’s faces. Google could have leveraged Gmail to do this.

All is not lost though. Fortunately a lot of the code is open sourced. I’m sure it’ll make it into other products. Maybe someone else will come out with a Wave implementation. Until then, I’ll keep using trusty old email.

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