Google Wave is done. Or “dead” or “cancelled?” What is the right metaphor for not continuing a lab project that was hyped like a real product? In any case, what does the demise of Google Wave mean to synchronous co-authoring? Not that much – despite the hype, it didn’t really do that much to raise the standard of the art.
My document Synchronous Co-Authoring: Ready for Prime Time? came out just 2 days after its planned starvation, initiated on August 4th, 2010 (RIP). And the first line of my report is now especially relevant: “Google’s announcement on May 28, 2009, will not go down in the annals of collaborative authoring history.”
As I wrote when breathless praise was being heaped on Wave after its debut, I find it funny how much attention Wave received for “innovations” that already existed. And they still try to take credit for setting a high bar in their parting goodbye:
Last year at Google I/O, when we launched our developer preview of Google Wave, a web app for real time communication and collaboration, it set a high bar for what was possible in a web browser. We showed character-by-character live typing, and the ability to drag-and-drop files from the desktop, even “playback” the history of changes—all within a browser.
Character-by-character live typing was in SubEthaEdit in 2003. And the “playback” history was pulled from EtherPad after it acquired EtherPad’s maker, AppJet. That technology is in most apps that spawned from EtherPad (see the EtherPad Foundation, now an open source project for which Google does not maintain official responsibilities).
Wave’s good-bye blog continues to say “The central parts of the code … like character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began.” Maybe for simple text messaging, but not for collaborative authoring – Google Apps Premier Edition is still the path forward.
The reason is that Wave and GAPE use different synchronous collaboration architectures. They both use the same browser channel, but Wave decided to use the CONTENTEDITABLE element in HTML. It was meant for simple HTML text editing (richer in IE), but not the full fidelity of productivity documents. I tried to find a link that defines CONTENTEDITABLE, but all I can find now are links to articles about how HTML5 takes it to the next level. Well, that’s a long ways off. And even then, I doubt it will be able to accommodate the formatting in a complex Microsoft Word or PowerPoint file.
The value Wave had was to push the collaboration market forward. As Bill Pray wrote:
“It has influenced and will continue to influence the future development of enterprise messaging and collaboration solutions. So, maybe “RIP” is not in order, but rather how will Wave reincarnate in better form.”