Geeks Try Google Wave, Have Mixed Feelings

Google Wave is one of the most-hyped new product launches in recent memory, but now that thousands of lucky people are getting to try it out – early reactions are mixed. If the hard-core geeks aren’t sure if they like it, that could spell serious trouble for mainstream adoption.

Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel and Louis Gray are three tech blogger geeks that love to use new tools and all got to test Google’s new real-time communication platform Wave today. It’s possible that when the rush is over the Wave experience will seem less overwhelming, but the kinds of initial reactions these three had aren’t good.

We’ve covered Wave extensively in the weeks leading up to today, Frederic Lardinois has been covering this beat and wrote up his initial impressions earlier this summer. We must confess though that few members of our team have received an invite to the live app. They are slowly trickling in, through “nominations” and delayed invites, but I thought I’d share some other writers’ initial reactions below, followed by some general observations about the challenges of a real-time communication experience.

For a good introduction to Google Wave, see enthusiast hacker Gina Trapani’s Wave Highlight Reel.

Steve Rubel summarizes his thoughts like this:

I have had a Google Wave sandbox account since late July. It’s slick to be sure. However, what I keep asking myself is this: what problem does it solve? In many ways it’s overly complex. In fact it’s too complex for the era of the Attention Crash where all of us, especially knowledge workers, are crying for simplicity.

Robert Scoble is not a fan:

I just got my Google Wave invite. No, I’m already out, so I can’t send one to you, sorry. But this service is way overhyped and as people start to use it they will realize it brings the worst of email and IM together: unproductivity.

See, the first thing you notice is that you can see people chatting live in Google Wave. That’s really cool if you are working on something together, like a spreadsheet or a Word document.

But it’s a productivity sink if you are trying to just communicate with other people. It also ignores the productivity gains that we’ve gotten from RSS feeds, Twitter, and FriendFeed.

Louis Gray has a long, detailed review that concludes like this:

I would bet that after the initial surge of curiosity, normal conversations and information exchange will eventually take over, so this initial spike may be an exception rather than the new rule. But if you’re diving into this new technology, expect to be exerting a lot of energy to stay on top of it, because messaging just got accelerated.

Have you had a chance to try Wave yet? We have high hopes for the Real-Time Web in general, but in the many conversations we’ve been having with other companies in this broad market one concern has loomed large: user experience. Wave is an ambitious effort and is technically impressive, but user experience, strategic content filtering and concurrent/complimentary use of static information display are all important as well.

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