Google will wipe out Wave as early as next year


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Ha-ha-ha, wipeout!

Google has halted development on its much-hyped Wave platform, which promised to revolutionize document collaboration and potentially replace e-mail.

The Mountain View, Calif., company said it will keep the service online until at least the end of the year.


Google Wave rode a cyclone of publicity when it launched in May last year. The service lets users send digital correspondences, called ‘waves,’ and edit the text as the conversation progresses, creating their own personal Wikipedia-like entries. Technology’s early adopters were tickled by the idea of seeing friends’ messages show up instantly after each keystroke.

All of that technical magic took a toll on Google’s servers, which hosted each wave and every edit that happened within those documents.

To manage growth, Google limited how many people were allowed to sign up for the service. Registrants needed an invitation from a member in order to use Wave, a strategy that worked well to organically grow Google’s popular Gmail application early on. Some invitations to the free Wave service were selling for $50 on EBay.

Excitement from Google’s flag wavers began to dampen when, after finally gaining entry to the service, they’d find few of their acquaintances had access. That limits the utility of a collaborative tool.

Wave was also plagued early on by technical problems as well as an overwhelming and confusing interface.

A pet project of Google Maps inventors and brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen, Google spun off Wave as an independent team based in Sydney, Australia.

They intended to release the platform as open-source for other companies to install on their own servers, and touted Wave as a replacement for e-mail. While packed with features, Wave couldn’t communicate with traditional e-mail addresses, though Wave’s founders had promised that feature for some time.


‘My team uses Wave every day as our main communication and collaboration tool,’ said Lars Rasmussen in an interview with The Times last year. ‘We don’t use e-mail at all. ... Of course, we’re a little bit biased.’

The Wave developers’ start-up environment allowed them to innovate freely and create high expectations, he said, but Google appears to have lost patience with the project.

‘Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked,’ said Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of operations, in a statement. ‘Wave has taught us a lot, and we are proud of the team for the ways in which they have pushed the boundaries of computer science.’

-- Mark Milian