Google Wave – flash in the pan?

A while ago, I wrote a post about Google Wave, and said that I would trial it for a while and then report back on how it was working for me. The time has now come to write that update, and to cut a long story short, Google Wave has entirely underwhelmed me. Whilst I’ve actively tried to use it, I go for days without even remembering to check my Wave inbox. Although on paper I understand that Google Wave offers greater communication prospects than email or existing social networks, I find it far easier to contact friends and colleagues through email, Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, a lot of my communication is done via mobile (Blackberry), and as far as I know, there is no Google Wave Blackberry app, or simple way to sync the two (correct me if I am wrong). And, whilst Google Wave is still fledgling, I think that users should receive email notifications when their wave inbox is updated (my colleagues never remember to check their Wave inboxes either).

It seems that I’m not the only one losing interest in Google Wave. As the graph below shows,  Google did a great job of building up hype around Google Wave towards the end of last year, however it seems that interest in the product is now plummeting.

googletrendsgooglewaveThe graph above shows Google search volume for the term “Google Wave” over the past 12 months.

The Hitwise graph below further confirms that usage of the service is falling; traffic to the Google Wave has fallen considerably over the past two months.

sai-chart-google-wave

The above statistics don’t surprise me in the slightest; Google Wave is currently not sticky enough to hold attention, and the functionality isn’t great at the moment. No doubt Google have some tricks up their sleeves, and the product is still in beta, so I am by no means writing this service off, but for now, I’m going to stop waving.

What are your thoughts?

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  5. Russell Tripp

    You’re absolutely right about extensions needing to be obvious and intrinsic to the interface. I think what most people don’t realize is that the current Google Wave interface is not the only one there will be. Since it’s an open platform, people can create their own interfaces for it – I can think of many things I’d like to see done differently in a custom interface – including some type of built-in extension list/search functionality.

    One of the big biz names working on a Wave-related release for this year is Novell. Their Pulse platform will “work seamlessly with Google Wave” – http://www.novell.com/products/pulse/ – As I watch their demo, I can’t help but think – “business-centric intranet-hosted Facebook”

  6. Natasha Ighodaro

    Russell, thanks for your comment, very enlightening; I will certainly try out the Notify bot that you’ve suggested. Based on what you have said, it does seem that Wave has great potential, but I think, to be mass market, the Wave service (or rather, the set of protocols), needs to be more intuitive. Whilst there may be add-ons and extensions that one can use to bolster the service, I (and probably a lot of other uses who have abandoned the service) wouldn’t think to search for them – I would expect them to be intrinsic to the service. But great that you say the Google team will be updating Wave soon.

    You mention that some big names in the business world plan to release applications based on the Wave protocol – can you give us any insight into who?

  7. Russell Tripp

    I’ve noticed that the people underwhelmed with Google Wave (and admittedly, it has a long way to go), are the ones who are not leveraging the use of extensions (bots and gadgets). I think there are a few reasons for this, but one of the biggest ones is that there’s no easy-to-find, easy-to-use, central repository of trusted extensions available within the Wave interface itself.

    As an example, one of the most common complaints I’ve heard is lack of notification – there are, in fact, numerous ways to get notified of updates to your waves now – including via email by way of the excellent, easy-to-use Notify bot (http://code.google.com/p/wave-email-notifications/wiki/NotifityTutorial).

    I’m actually a big fan of Google Wave, but I know I’m an unusual user – in that I’m a programmer and am looking at it in terms of potential (which almost can’t be overstated). I’m not surprised at all by the sharp dropoff in use for several reasons – 1) The initial self-feeding hype around the launch created a lot of users who were there with no idea why they were there or what they were going to do when they got there. 2) A lot of non-techie users or people who don’t know how to actively seek them out don’t know about a lot of the extensions to Wave that make it much more than a message board. 3) The interface, which was obviously designed by the Google team for the way _they_ were using Wave, leaves a lot to be desired for the way a lot of other people would want to use the service.

    With that said, the Wave team has been kind of silent for a few months now, but seem to be springing back into action with the recent update creating two (much needed) improvements – Read-Only access and Restore From Playback – and they’ve said they’re planning to release many more improvements based on user feedback in the near future.

    The biggest reason I hold out hope for Google Wave, though, is the fact that the Google Wave interface you see when you visit the site is not, in fact, Wave. Wave is a set of protocols – standard methods of letting applications communicate. I know there are some big, big names in the business world that plan to release applications based on the Wave protocol (which means they’ll interact with whatever Wave interface you’re using) this year.

    So, is it a perfect tool for collaboration right now? Obviously not. Is it a great tool for collaboration? I think so – and I think a lot of the people that don’t see it as such or aren’t using it that way are not using (or are not even aware of) the extensions that make it far more powerful. It’s still a “Preview” – and not really ready for a great many of the users that were drawn to it at launch, but I think we have to wait a while to see where it will ultimately take us.

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