Google has announced it is ending development on Wave, the cross-platform communication tool it launched with much fanfare at its I/O developer conference in May 2009.
Google said in a post last night that "Wave has not seen the adoption we would have liked" and that elements of Wave's technology, including drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are now as open source so users can "liberate their content from Wave".
Like most people, you've probably heard of it but not actually tried it, which sums up the problem. What was it? The Wave idea was a centralised communications tool that combined the real-time advantages of Twitter with the aggregation of your email and chat, with collaborative documents too. Easy to dismiss as something too ambitious and far reaching, but perhaps the difficulty in describing its function was its biggest downall. Twitter managed to survive a similar fate (remember that moment of trying to describe it to a non believer?) but Wave was far more ambitious.
There will be plenty of coverage today reeling off lists of Google's failures; Google Squared, Google Answers, Google Radio, Google Lively, Google Health, Google Notebook and Dodgeball among them. Those will be reliably dwarfed by Google's successes. Our European perspective might make us more critical of failure than in the US, where it is more rightly regarded as an inevitable and positive sign of productivity and innovation.
Chief executive Eric Schmidt himself said of the Wave failure that it is just a symptom of trying things out. "Remember, we celebrate our failures. This is a company where it's absolutely OK to try something that's very hard, have it not be successful, and take the learning from that," he told journalists late yesterday.