The much-hyped Google Wave was shut down today. It was originally said to be the next generation of email and how we would all start to collaborate in the future. But the future never showed up - to Google's chagrin - and they finally had to admit that the product wasn't seeing the traction it needed to continue it. This is what you might call the opposite of the Network Effect - people show up, there's no one there, so they leave and don't come back.
So what can we learn from this? I think there are three key take-aways:
1. All the marketing in the world will not make a product successful.
Google, for all it's (ironic) distaste of marketing its products, has some incredible marketing and PR people who can clearly create a huge amount of buzz and excitement. But don't put that machine to work until the product is ready.
2. Just because Google builds it, doesn't mean the world will adopt.
Technology companies need to stop relying on the 'cool tech' factor and instead focus on the end-user. Make a product that people will love because it solves a problem for them and does it with the simplicity of Google search. Don't make us move to a fully new product and away from the workflow of our current lives.
3. It's not easy for companies to jump on board with new standards - new platforms.
Broad development support was critical to Wave's success, yet the idea that nearly every peripheral application would support the Wave standard showed a level of hubris that is rare for Google. How many more standards and platforms are developers going to have to develop for? There are too many as it is right now - why add another?
The principals and protocol were definitely sound; there are plenty of problems with email today: its lack of handling rich media, inability to stay current and up-to-speed with real-time activities, lack of interesting extensions and flexibility, and the inherent un-collaborative nature of the tool. At Box, we'll continue to work on practical, innovative, and scalable ways to help businesses collaborate around information and content. Hopefully we can continue to play one of the roles Wave was meant to provide.
Post by Aaron Levie, CEO