5 Things We Can Learn From Google Wave’s Demise

Recently Google announced that Google Wave would be discontinued at the end of the year. This was sad news for myself and thousands of other people that found this software application to be quite useful. We can, however, take away a few lessons about launching a new product or service…

What was Google Wave?

If you never had the chance to use Google Wave, it was a new offering by Google that was mainly aimed at a new way for communication and collaboration. Google made it easy to work with a group of people (on a wave), where it was point and click to add text, audio, video, links, etc… all in real time. Anyone in the wave could update information, create wavelets (side-projects), see typing as it was occurring, or even play back the development of the wave from start to finish.

I personally used it a number of times to work on complicated LexiConn projects, and found it to be very helpful in working with multiple people on a project. It made group tasks more manageable, and allowed everyone to see what was happening in real time. Jim Connolly also found Wave to be useful, and was dismayed at its end.

Crash!

Why did Google kill it?

In their announcement, Google stated that the adoption of the product was not up to the level they expected. Despite a loyal base, they did not get the millions of people they wanted to use the product heavily.

In fact, when they first launched Wave, Google made bold predictions about it replacing email and being the new standard for internet based communication. Bold indeed!

What can we learn?

Here are five things we can take away from how Google Wave ended…

1. Customers have to understand it

Even if you have the best product ever created, if people do not understand it or see the value, it will not be successful. Google Wave was shrouded in secrecy in its infancy. The Google Wave video was long and disjointed. The docs were not clear.

Although the potential was there for Wave to be a killer app, confusion and mis-understanding limited its broad appeal. If you are introducing a new product or service that is not widely recognized, you have to go to great lengths to make sure your marketing explains the clear benefits and uses of your product.

2. Marketing to your audience is key

Google Wave appealed to die-hard tech geeks, and Google catered to them. But they wanted Wave to be adopted by the general public! They were targeting the wrong audience.

Assuming you know who your target market is for your new product, make sure your message is getting to them. Use the right avenues and places where your target market hangs out. And tailor the message so it makes sense to them (see #1 above).

3. Your passion is not always everyone else’s passion

Google loved Google Wave. Its developers were head over heels in love with it. Google had grand plans for it. They saw so many possibilities. Unfortunately, the public did not share this love affair. Google’s energy level was not enough to propel Wave to the top.

Often times we think that what we like and love must be what others like. Although this can be true, this “passion” can often blind us when it comes time to figure out what our customers actually want. You have to step outside of your little world, see things from your customers’ eyes, and gauge whether the product or service will have the appeal you expect.

4. Hard work and passion are not enough

Google worked hard on Wave. They had devoted developers, and spent considerable time and money developing it. Although this level of work and energy is needed for super successful products, you cannot rely on that alone. It seems Google did just that.

Once the sweat and tears have been poured in, you have to market the product effectively. You have to adapt and adjust the product based on customer feedback. And you have to define the problem customers are having, and tailor your product to be the solution they desire. Then the hard work will pay off!

Bottom line – You must have clear direction and goals, but you must be flexible to adjust them to wow your customers.

5. Don’t be afraid to fail

Although Google Wave will end this year, Google stuck their neck out, created something quite revolutionary, and gained a whole tool-chest full of new applications. Sure, Wave did not succeed as a whole, but Google is already using the pieces of Wave in other applications. They learned what people liked about Wave, and will put that knowledge to good use.

Trying something new can be quite scary. Failing with your new product or service can be quite painful. But if you look closely, analyze the data, and see what you can get out of it, these “failures” can lead to better results down the road. Or be the piece to the puzzle you’ve been missing on a different project altogether.

Did you try Google Wave? What did you think? What else can we take away from the life and death of Wave?

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4 Comments

  1. Steve G says:

    Tried it.. Used it.. Wasn’t surprised at all when it went under.. Google has a long and glorious history of being unable to do social well.. Wave is done.. Buzz isn’t too far behind.. The only real successes that Google has had outside of search is when they have outright copied other people, Google Docs, or when they have just spent the cash and bought their competitor, Youtube vs Google Video..

    I’ve been watching the rumors around Google.Me in relation to Facebook, plus their investments in social companies like Zynga and now Slide.. I see Google in the stage that Microsoft was in about 8 or 10 years ago.. Trying to get in to everything and failing at most of it simply because they have grown too big and don’t have the passionate direction that they had with search, or in Microsoft’s case, operating systems..

    If history wins out the next big thing will be along in about 4 years and Google will slide backwards just as MS did and the new darling of the internet will take the stage and make the same mistakes..

    • History does tend to repeat itself it seems… 😉

      Thanks for the comments.

      Google is trying to get their hands into as many honey pots as they can, to find something that will stick. Although I believe they are probing the social media scene to protect their search dominance, as Facebook looks to be rolling out its own massive advertising system that could rival AdWords (and be more effective due to better targeting).

      Time will tell…

  2. WaveLook says:

    Rob,
    Wave is not dead, it’s alive and well at http://wavelook.com

    We’ve just released our Wave client for Microsoft Outlook that has a unified inbox (emails and waves in the same inbox)

    We are working on a Wave webapp that will let you sign into any wave server (sign up for beta waiting list at http://wavelook.com)

    And we are working on a Wave server that will run in the cloud or you can deploy locally so that you can migrate your data from Google Wave (sign up for beta waiting list at http://wavelook.com)

    So if you like Wave, you can still keep using it. It’s not going anywhere.

    wave or email us for details: info@wavelook.com

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