Google, which unveiled Google Wave at its annual I/O developer conference in June 2009 to whoops and cheers, said that it would no longer be working on the real-time collaboration and communication tool.
The company acknowledged that despite huge internal excitement over the possibilities offered by Wave, users did not display the same enthusiasm.
The main problem with Google Wave was that there was no definition of what the tool would actually be used for, and users found it hard to get used to the service.
“Google Wave set a high bar for what was possible in a web browser,” wrote Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of operations at Google in a blog post.
“We showed character-by-character live typing, and the ability to drag and drop files from the desktop – even “playback” the history of changes.
“We were jazzed about Google Wave internally, even though we weren’t quite sure how users would respond to this radically different kind of communication,” he admitted.
“But despite numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a stand-alone product.”
Hölzle said that Google would continue to support the product until at least the end of this year, and would enable the technology that underpinned Wave to be used in other Google projects, and by third-party developers.
He also said that Google would develop a tool to help existing Wave users to “liberate” any content they had archived in Wave so it could be saved elsewhere.
“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,” said Hölzle. “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.”
Although many in the technology industry had long believed Google Wave was underperforming, the news that Google was ending support for one of its most innovative new products came as a surprise to most.
“Maybe it was just ahead of its time, or maybe there were just too many features to ever allow it to be defined properly,” said Michael Arrington, editor of influential industry website TechCrunch.
Dan Frommer, a journalist with Business Insider, said it was the mark of a strong company that Google felt comfortable writing off products and services that it felt did not work.
“Give Google credit for quickly and soundly getting rid of them when it’s clear they don’t work,” he said. “The reality is that product flops happen. What’s worse is when companies keep them around for too long, endlessly trying to justify pet projects or bad ideas that ‘people just don’t understand yet’.
“Part of the point of being a huge tech company like Google is being able to make big, risky bets – most of which will fail, but some of which, like Google Android, could eventually pay off.
“By showing it’s smart enough to swallow its pride and get rid of bad ideas, like Wave and the Nexus One store, Google is showing us it’s probably smart enough to come up with some really successful ideas, too.”
Moving forward, the end of Wave could just be a sign that Google is serious about focusing its social efforts on more widely understood products like Google Apps, Buzz, and gaming.
Recent financial moves, including a reported $100 million investment in social-gaming company Zynga, and a rumored $182 million acquisition of social photo-sharing service Slide, certainly point the company’s momentum in that direction.[Google Blog via Daily Telegraph (UK) and CNET]