So Google announced yesterday that it was pulling the plug on its high profile Wave initiative. Gartner will soon publish a First Take with the official reaction, but the way this announcement was made got me thinking. I will not cry for Wave, but I find this an unsettling move. Not because Google has killed something that wasn’t working, but the way it was killed.
I was excited by the original video clip that introduced Wave. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I couldn’t wait to get an invite. Once I got one, my reaction was… “Huh? Now what?” Like most people who tried it, I never really got into it. I felt kind of guilty, since I never really devoted that much time to figuring it out. I thought I would have plenty of time to do so once the kinks were worked out. But alas. After about a year, Google announced that they will put no more development effort into it, essentially dooming it as a product.
Google certainly has the right to kill off its projects. It was still in Google Labs (not even Beta), and no one had paid for it. But the way that Google did this is unsettling. If I had spent a lot of time or money incorporating Wave into how I work, I would feel pretty bad after someone pointed out that blog post to me. Just imagine: you have to follow a specific blog page to find out that the product you have built a business around, or used every day is doomed. . If I were a partner who had spent money developing products around Wave, I would feel even worse. Let down. Adrift. Angry. Certainly, I would think twice about doing business around Google technologies again. Actually, I wouldn’t think twice; I would never do it again.
I love how startups innovate. That means taking risks, which is to be applauded. But when do they stop being startups and when do the risks need to get smaller? I think that we have reached that point with Google now. It wants to be an enterprise player, so it needs to act like one. That means developing and communicating long term technology roadmaps that developers and enterprises can count on. Some think that this kind of flexibility and willingness to act quickly is a good thing. So do I, for small startups. Not for high profile products from grown-up companies. Google was still pushing Wave to enterprises at an event about two months ago. Even today, there is nothing on the Wave inbox page or the Wave help page or the official Wave blog page to indicate it is a dead product walking. Partners and customers are right to expect more. Google has made significant progress towards becoming a more credible technology partner and enterprise supplier. This episode is certainly a step backwards, however.