What Killed Google Wave?

Google’s open-source, invite-only, real-time communication tool, Wave, is dead, at least for the rest of the year. Google announced that it would suspend Wave development and stop maintaining the website for the rest of the year.

Wave was huge when it first came out. That is, for people who could get an invitation to use it. What happened? PC Magazine’s Lance Ulanoff claims that things went wrong because it Wave best for developers–and nobody else:

The Google Wave fiasco is actually just like the entire consumer robotics industry. Have you ever wondered why there are so few successful consumer robots on the market? I know why. I covered the industry for years and met some wonderful and truly brilliant people. However, over time I began to notice that the people I was meeting, the men and women running the robotics companies and delivering products to market, were actually the inventors (read: developers).

That’s right, the men and women who had the crazy idea that could become a remarkable home robot were being allowed to design, build, fabricate, price, and market their home robots. As a result, most of what they produced could never succeed on the shelves of your local Best Buy. Lesson 1: You can’t let the guys from the back room run the company. They do not know how to deliver final product and certainly can’t package and market it. Lesson 2: You can’t trust their judgment when it comes to assessing finished product. Developers like the way a fully-built Erector Set robot dog looks, but your average seven-year-old would be terrified by it.

Google cannot be blamed for letting a Google Labs product out in public—they do it all the time. However, it does shoulder the blame for buying into developers’ over-enthusiastic embrace of a product that was nine parts concept and one part finished product. Google Wave had potential, but I’m glad Google finally recognizes that its biggest opportunities will be found inside more popular and more realistic applications.

Wave was what the SF Chronicle calls a “product only a Googler would love.” Also, thanks it its invite-only nature, many people found themselves alone after logging in. So much for social media.

According to CNET’s Ina Fried:

Eric Schmidt tried to paint the failure of Google Wave as a sign that the company’s innovative culture continues to take risks and aim big.

“Our policy is we try things,” the Google CEO said, hours after the company announced it was halting development of the complex real-time communication tool. “We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new.”

Schmidt said Wave, despite its lack of market success, was “a very clever product.”

“We liked the (user interface) and we liked a lot of the new features in it (but) didn’t get enough traction, so we are taking those technologies and applying them to new technologies that are not announced. We’ll get the benefit of Google Wave but it won’t be as a separate product.”

As in, there’s a new social media product in the works? Hope it’s not invite-only this time, or if it is, enough people join to make it interesting.