Home Why Developers Did Not Adopt Google Wave

Why Developers Did Not Adopt Google Wave

Google Wave entered the Google Apps family earlier this year with what looked like some momentum.

Novell had integrated Google Wave into its Pulse project. SAP had developed a collaborative business process modeling tool within Google Wave. Salesforce.com had called Google Wave a “seminal cloud technology.” Several more had also bet on Google Wave’s future.

But Google Wave is now being shuttered. Most of the technology will live on in the open-source community. That may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to developers and social technology companies.

In Retrospect

In looking back, the public relations around Google Wave definitely altered the perception about the service. In reality, developers had difficulty understanding the context for Google Wave. It also did not help that Google Wave is one of the most complex technologies Google has ever offered to the development community.

As @timbr pointed out, Wave had only been out in general use for three months. The APIs had not been stable much longer. Uptake was considerable considering those factors alone.

Google Wave also required people to change how they use the Web and interact with each other. It represented a melding of technologies. Developers do not like to have to adapt to big changes in behavior. Developers can not afford to take on that kind of challenge, especially with a technology as complex as Google Wave.

Adina Levin of Socialtext did an analysis of Google Wave. The first question she had was about the concept of the service:

“The first big set of questions relate to the conceptual model. Wave attempts to mash up email threads, documents, and streaming communication. Each of these is familiar and not that hard to understand. The combination seems a bit mind-bending.”

The Best Thing That Ever Happened

Google Wave will continue to benefit developers. Its central components will remain open-source.

“Now that Google is not prioritizing, developers can cherry pick elements of innovation that made up Wave and use as needed for their apps,” said Sameer Patel, a well-respected Enterprise 2.0 consultant with the Sovos Group, who wrote a post yesterday about Google’s news.

Patel said that Google stood as the biggest competitor to Google Wave developers. Now developers can build on top of the open-source code with a lot less worry.

For its part, Google is now reaching out to partners and customers. The central parts of the source code is available as open-source. The protocols that drove a degree of innovation are also available as open-source. Google will work on developing tools for customers to “liberate” their content from Wave.

A Google spokesperson said the company has initially released the following:

  • The operational transformation (OT) code
  • The underlying Wave model
  • The basic client/server prototype that uses the Wave protocol

Google will also continue to use some of Wave’s technologies in other Google products.

The Mini-Wave

Anil Dash wrote last year that Google was indeed impressive. He compared it to RSS and Ajax. He learned to hack RSS in about a day. Ajax took a few days longer. But Google Wave had a powerful set of features built into it that would take far longer to master. The Google Wave components included:

  • Federation (XMPP)
  • The robot protocol (JSONRPC)
  • The gadget API (OpenSocial)
  • The wave embed API (Javascript)
  • The client-server protocol (As defined by GWT)

In a comprehensive post, Dash compared Google Wave to the “pushbutton technologies“, his term for what makes the Web easy to use as a development platform. Google Wave as a service is far more monolithic. It did not have that pushbutton capability.


“The future is more about real time messages to a Web-scale audience, using free and open technologies at low cost and without relying on any single company like Twitter or Facebook.”

Source: Anil Dash

Dash says Pushbutton technology will make it possible for any site to be real-time. Pushbutton is the “mini-wave.” It’s genesis comes from the development done by people like Dave Winer, who pioneered XML-RPC update pings and offerings such as RSSCloud. Others include Brad Fitzpatrick and Brett Slatkin of Google who developed Pubsubhub.

“Why is this clearly “inferior” technology going to win? Well, as just one example, XMPP is way too complicated for any normal human to deploy. Whereas if you’re reading this, you probably already have access to a regular HTTP web server that could talk to a Pushbutton hub. In fact, the only two backers I know who have worked extensively with XMPP are Brad Fitzpatrick and Arthur Bergman, who co-created Djabberd. And they are both excited about PubSubHubBub. Realistically, someone like Yahoo might try to do all of this, and inevitably one or two open source projects will try to lash together open implementations of each of these pieces to make a kind of FrankenWave application. There are probably already one or two teams working on the inevitable “Enterprise Wave Server” platforms as well, though I haven’t heard about them myself. These efforts may succeed, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever be robust enough that people will trust them for communicating on the web.”

Developers can leverage the components of Google Wave. But its richness will continue to be both its benefit and danger. If the innovation stretches too far it will surpass adoption thresholds.

And that will mean projects will look more like stagnant pools than rolling waves.

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