The inevitable ‘Death of Google Wave’ post

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Having written and presented a fair bit on Google Wave over the last year I couldn’t let the news that Google were pulling the plug pass without comment.

In the beginning …

It all started with such optimism back in May/June 2009 when I posted Google Wave – Opportunities for communication, collaboration and social learning in education. Like many others I perhaps focused too much on the real-time ‘almost character-by-character’ interaction, but I soon discovered that its possible strengths were more about how easily it was to embed waves in other sites and systems including VLEs (Black Wave: Embedding Google Wave (etherpad and mindmeister) into Blackboard, Black Wave 2: Blackboard Wave Integration!, Moodle Wave: Embedding Google Wave into Moodle). And also not forgetting the power of robots and gadgets (Educational Extensions (Robots and Gadgets) for Google Wave).

Malformed wave

Many commentators have expressed their opinion about where Google went wrong. For me it was perhaps a chicken and egg scenario. Google wanted to employ the community to develop the product with/for them, but they couldn’t open the doors to everyone. This meant the focus was the beta site, ignoring any integration with other Google products (notably Gmail and Docs). (I hope you are struck by the irony of being able to embed Waves in Blackboard but not Gmail).

The crest

The pinnacle of my work on Google Wave was perhaps my presentation at our JISC Winter Fayre in December 2009. Whilst my slides are available, we have no recording of the event which is a shame because I was on fire ;-), but my Google Wave 101 post mirrors the structure and content of my talk.

After the storm

In my humble opinion if Google truly believe in ‘doing no evil’ then they need to open source every single line of code and let the community decide the future of Wave.

Do I regret spending so much time on Wave? No! That’s what the RSC is here for, to invest time in researching emerging technologies and practices to disseminate to our supported institutions (Here is a collection of my Wave posts).


  1. But Google Buzz still lives! Even having googled the difference between Buzz and Wave I am not sure I am really any the wiser.

    Perhaps Wave was too complex and most people just want to ‘socialise’, hence Facebook is so successful. Do people actually collaborate in real time as Wave did? My experience is that people prefer bouncing emails off each other.

    1. Hi Peter – you’re right that there are a lot of similarities between Buzz and Wave. This article from PC World gives a nice comparison of the two products.

      I often wonder with a corporation the size of Google as to how much internal competition (and politics) there is between products. Did the Buzz team get on better with the Gmail department than Wave? Was Buzz developed in part by the Gmail team?

      I think the character-by-character collaboration is a bit of a red herring for human-to-human interaction, but presented intriguing opportunities when robots were added to the mix (the real-time translation being a good example).

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