Ahead of its Time

Yesterday’s announcement about the end of Google Wave saddened me. I was one of the lucky ones who had access to the beta site early last fall. To be honest, it was great to be part of the reconnaissance group. A lot of the initial conversation was pretty basic, along the lines of “Does anyone know how…?” or “Guess what I just discovered?” And, for a while, that was fun. But then we seemed to run out of things to say and activity on most of the Waves I had joined petered out. What became clear was once we were past the gee whiz period of learning how to use the new toy, we needed a better reason to use it.

So I began to search for specific projects that could be enhanced by use of Google Wave.  And, not surprisingly, once I turned my focus to this I saw several projects. One of my favorites was proposed by a colleague who wanted to use a Wave to plan her wedding. I made her promise to tell me how it went because I wanted to blog about it.

I don’t fault Google (too much) for shuttering Wave. After all, they have to allocate their own resources and, by their standards, adoption rates had been disappointing. However, I can’t help thinking the decision was a little premature. Nonetheless, it was Google’s decision to make and it fits with the preferred approach of experimenting widely, but being willing to fail fast.

Closer to home, I was telling a friend today about some cool technology I was trying. He told me that he had looked at it at least five years ago, but the users in his organization had not been ready for it.  As a result, he reluctantly canceled his pilot. Five years later, I’m discovering how much easier it is to win adoption. This is largely because of the improvement of the consumer experience on the internet.  Clearly my friend’s pilot was ahead of its time. Can the same be said for Google Wave? Perhaps in a few years the general public will be ready to do something useful with this technology. At that point, we’ll have to hope that Google or open-source developers will brave another attempt at the Wave.

[Photo Credit: Lovati’s Photos]