Last week, Toby and I dove into the clean waters that is know as Google Wave. I say that it is the “clean” waters of Google Wave because most people I know have barely stuck a toe in – and most of them immediately pulled that toe back out.

There has been article after article of how Google Wave is going to replace email; that Wave how email would be if we could start all over again; how Wave better to communicate via Google Wave for conferences rather than Twittering about it; or, that Wave ‘Gadgets’ are going to be the iPhone ‘App Store’ of the future. From what I’ve seen so far… it is a whole lot of chatter by a bunch of dreamers, and very little actual success.

I’ve sent invites to some of my technology co-workers and friends only to be told that they simply do not have the time to mess with such a product, or have absolutely no interest in trying to learn Wave. I even tried to get some interaction going last week by creating a Wave to monitor the Journalism and New Media Ecology conference being held at Yale Law. I had two people join in, and one of them was my co-blogger, Lisa. Either people were not interested in the conference topic (which I doubt), or the struggle of understanding how to use Wave in an effective way was too much of a hurdle for most people to try to jump over.
The reason for the lack of success so far has been two-fold:
  1. Google Wave looks like it is still in Alpha testing phase, much less the Beta testing it is claiming (think Linux, pre-1999)
  2. Simply not enough people are engaging the product or each other
I’m usually a big supporter of Google, and I like a lot of what they have done over the past few years in expanding the Internet to include actual applications rather than just information retrieval. But, let’s face it, this isn’t the first time that Google has attempted to replace desktop business applications with cloud-based products (Gmail, and Google Docs) with varying degrees of success. Both of these products are “good” products, but neither have exactly caused Microsoft’s Outlook or Word to become obsolete. It seems like Google Wave might be following the same path as the Google Docs products — great personal programs, but not ready for the Enterprise Level.
Here are some of my suggestions:
  1. Open up more invitations (there are just too few people in this test… and most of them have participated very little)
  2. Stop with the 80 minute presentations on how Wave is so cool, and give me 3 minute “how-to” videos
  3. Navigating through a Wave has to be more intuitive – if you are not glued to the Wave screen, it is too hard to understand what new items have been added since you last visited the Wave
  4. Make Wave Gadgets (Apps) easier to find and use — if the Gadgets are the future of Wave, then make it easy for me to find and use them!!
  5. The “Search” portion of Wave is horrible!! For God sakes, Google… you’re a Search Engine company…. make the search portion as easy as it is on Google!!
  6. Allocate more power to the back-end of Wave — Wave is becoming slow… and getting slower. Try going through the “playback” function on a Wave that has a couple of hundred different communications in it. When I have… I find it to be extremely S L O W ! ! !
Wave is a great idea that is wrapped in a frame of confusion. Google has succeeded in the past by making products that are simple yet effective for the person using it. With Wave, so far at least, it accomplishes neither.