Google Wave crashes on beach of overhype

I just got my Google Wave invite. No, I’m already out, so I can’t send one to you, sorry.

But this service is way overhyped and as people start to use it they will realize it brings the worst of email and IM together: unproductivity.

See, the first thing you notice is that you can see people chatting live in Google Wave.

That’s really cool if you are working on something together, like a spreadsheet or a Word document.

But it’s a productivity sink if you are trying to just communicate with other people.

It also ignores the productivity gains that we’ve gotten from RSS feeds, Twitter, and FriendFeed.

What do I mean by that?

It is noisy, but the noise often happens way down in a wave deep in your inbox.

This is far far worse than email. (New email always shows up at the top of my inbox, where Google Wave can bring me new stuff deep down at the bottom of my inbox).

It’s far far worse than Twitter (where new stuff ALWAYS shows up at top). It’s even far worse than FriendFeed, which my friends always said was too noisy. At least there when you write a comment on an item it pops to the top of the page.

And, worse, when I look at my Google Wave page I see dozens of people all typing to me in real time. I don’t know where to look and keeping up with this real time noise is less like email, which is like tennis (hit one ball at a time) and more like dodging a machine gun of tennis balls. Much more mentally challenging.

See, Google Wave was oversold as something you’d use with the public, or at least with large groups of friends, like you use Twitter, email, or Facebook.

No. Using it that way is an attention dump and will kill your productivity. Google Wave is actually closer to IM. Great with your very close friends or very active coworkers but horrid for nearly everyone else.

Google’s Wave will crash hard onto the beach of overhype.

My advice?

DO NOT ADD EVERYONE. Get a close personal friend, or a coworker to play with this and don’t publicize that you’re using it until you are sure you can deal with the productivity hit you’ll take here.

DO NOT ASSUME THIS IS A TWITTER KILLER. It is not. It’s not even a good sharing engine, far worse than FriendFeed is. I’d recommend using a private room over on FriendFeed first.

DO TRY THE API if you are a developer. From what I’m seeing that’s where the real value in Google Wave will come, but we haven’t seen enough apps yet so end users won’t find much here to play with yet.

To see some screen shots and how noisy this can get, go over and check out Louis Gray’s post about it.

Just get ready for the crash of overhype, this one didn’t deserve this much hype for what it delivered.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

235 thoughts on “Google Wave crashes on beach of overhype

  1. I think we are mixing the Google Wave client with the Google Wave Service.

    Google Wave is a mix of different protocols to enable real-time collaboration. The current Google Wave Client is Google's window into using that service.

    In the future there may be lots of different clients that are based on Google Wave. E.g., instead of the current Wikipedia text entry box there may be a much richer edit-tool based on Google Wave where editors can invite their collaborators, see proposed changes in real-time, add translation bots.

    Or imagine Google Docs enriched with Google Wave: invite participants that do not have a google docs account, replay the discussion that led to a specific bit of text.

  2. I’d be interested to know what incredibly productive task you were attempting to accomplish with ‘everyone’. Twitter and Friendfeed are great and fun tools but they’re the Kopi Luwak of the day-to-day life of average knowledge workers – unless you’re an enthusiast no on knows (or really cares) what you’re talking about.

    Wave isn’t the Twitter killer – it is the Outlook/Exchange & Office killer. Google Apps offers a very compelling story for knowledge workers to make the move, but it isn’t enough – for ‘email is email’ is often the case against change. Change is a difficult sale. Wave changes the discussion entirely and provides another spearhead for Google to drive through the heart of MSFT in the enterprise.

    Wave must be applied to a specific task (or set of tasks) to be useful – a specific task with specific people. Do you email, IM, collaborate on docs, and make decisions with ‘everyone’?

    Google Wave offers the speed, flexibility, and freedom of collaboration we all enjoy online to the knowledge worker of the enterprise who still suffers at the hands of the Cruel King – Outlook. For all the hype around Google Apps, MSFT’s war chest is as strong as they come. Wave + Apps provides David his stone.

  3. I totally disagree with the premise of this article. I don’t see why Google Wave would be compared to Twitter or Facebook. To me it’s an enhanced email / wiki / google docs product. If it works as described, it will be exteremely useful to me. Currently I colloborate with collegues either with a Google Document or by a series of back and forth email responses. Neither solution is ideal.

    With Google Docs, it’s difficult to discuss points within the document without people adding their name followed by their comment (and often some highlights so you can notice the comment) to certain sections under discussion. The result is a colourful mess that has to be hand edited out, which means that information is now harder to get to (need to look in history).

    With email tennis as you put it, you’re constantly trying to maintain the document as some people will write replies in one place while others will reply based on the last email and so on. The end result is often long threads of emails with comments totally unstructured and very difficult to go back and consult.

    Google Wave seems to be a solution to this problem and probably many other similar use cases. I don’t see at all what it has to do with twitter or facebook where you’re simply broadcasting and not really collaborating on a document.

  4. I think the point that a lot of people are missing about Wave is that it is meant to (some day) give people a single repository for all of their online conversations.

    For those who talk about “too much noise” what about the fact that I often get overwhelmed because I have to constantly visit Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, IM, etc, etc? If I comment on blogs or in a bulletin board, I also have to remember to keep checking to see if anyone has commented back to me. Wave is not meant to supplement all of the disparate services. It's meant to integrate them!

    It may take a while, but I welcome the day that I can post on someone's Facebook wall, send someone else an email, post a tweet, and comment on some obscure blog, and then be able to track ALL responses IN ONE PLACE while chatting live with my Mom (and also see that someone just commented on that Flickr photo I just posted). It all matters on how you use it.

    I fear Robert that you try to have too many conversations and see this as yet another service to add to the overload. Again, my hope is that it will someday integrate them. I know it's a huge paradigm shift – and it may never come to pass. But it is an evolution that I think needs to happen.

  5. I think the point that a lot of people are missing about Wave is that it is meant to (some day) give people a single repository for all of their online conversations.

    For those who talk about “too much noise” what about the fact that I often get overwhelmed because I have to constantly visit Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, IM, etc, etc? If I comment on blogs or in a bulletin board, I also have to remember to keep checking to see if anyone has commented back to me. Wave is not meant to supplement all of the disparate services. It's meant to integrate them!

    It may take a while, but I welcome the day that I can post on someone's Facebook wall, send someone else an email, post a tweet, and comment on some obscure blog, and then be able to track ALL responses IN ONE PLACE while chatting live with my Mom (and also see that someone just commented on that Flickr photo I just posted). It all matters on how you use it.

    I fear Robert that you try to have too many conversations and see this as yet another service to add to the overload. Again, my hope is that it will someday integrate them. I know it's a huge paradigm shift – and it may never come to pass. But it is an evolution that I think needs to happen.

  6. Completely agree with this post.

    Yes, Email is currently everywhere and very ingrained in everything we do. But does that mean we HAVE to keep using email forever? Do we want to keep using email forever? Technology is getting better and better yet email is pretty much the same as it always was.

    Of course, noone would expect the system can be changed overnight and everyone weened off into something new. It would take years to evolve into a new system, but that doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't happen. Personally I like the idea that someone is actually giving this a go and seeing what they can do. The guys at Wave had an idea, and aren't afraid to go for it and see what happens. Personally, I welcome the idea of a new communication system to take over from email. Will it work? Who knows. This is after all just the beginning. It's a preview and a first release. Many many things can change and evolve, and people will develop for the platform and help to mould it into something better.

  7. Completely agree with this post.

    Yes, Email is currently everywhere and very ingrained in everything we do. But does that mean we HAVE to keep using email forever? Do we want to keep using email forever? Technology is getting better and better yet email is pretty much the same as it always was.

    Of course, noone would expect the system can be changed overnight and everyone weened off into something new. It would take years to evolve into a new system, but that doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't happen. Personally I like the idea that someone is actually giving this a go and seeing what they can do. The guys at Wave had an idea, and aren't afraid to go for it and see what happens. Personally, I welcome the idea of a new communication system to take over from email. Will it work? Who knows. This is after all just the beginning. It's a preview and a first release. Many many things can change and evolve, and people will develop for the platform and help to mould it into something better.

  8. “It's more like email and IM getting together and having a baby.”

    Wasn't that the initial idea though? At least the impression I got from watching the original demo, was that this was a way to refresh the email system and bring it more into the future. I could be completely wrong in that respect as i've not had chance to use Wave yet. I imagined using it like I use email, but with the added functionality of integrating chat if the other person is online, threaded conversations and the ease of sharing content. Since email is generally only used with either individuals or smaller groups of people I wouldn't imagine noise being an issue.

    Could it be that people are over-hyping it themselves by trying to compare with other social networks? Should we actually be comparing it against email/im and what avantages/disadvantages it has over that system?

  9. I don't believe Google over-hyped it at all. I think it's a big idea that needs more than community input; it needs community engagement (time and resources) to work together on developing app's for a big idea.

    It was presented as a revolutionary idea that needs community input to work. “Over-hyped” I would save for stuff like the Segway, the GM Chevy Volt and most of the James bond movies in the last 20 years.

    - John Coonen

  10. I don't believe Google over-hyped it at all. I think it's a big idea that needs more than community input; it needs community engagement (time and resources) to work together on developing app's for a big idea.

    It was presented as a revolutionary idea that needs community input to work. “Over-hyped” I would save for stuff like the Segway, the GM Chevy Volt and most of the James bond movies in the last 20 years.

    - John Coonen

  11. WEAK Strawman Arguement Robert. You should have written “My advice” at the top, then followed it. You assume the very things you tell others not to, then you shoot it down. Duh.

    It's such a big idea, I think the folks at Google were smart in opening it up to the Developer community to beat it up and get their help on figuring out specific applications to make it manageable, relevant and productive.

    So now, you've beat it up a little. How WOULD you use it to be productive?

    John Coonen

  12. Your article is very biased with a tone of “I wish I had thought of this, but because I’m a general failure instead I’ll just criticize the shit out of it”
    You completely miss the point my friend!
    If I was you I’d take this post off the net, it ridiculous!

  13. If any kind of killer at all, it could be a Facebook IM killer. Not a Facebook killer. Facebook IM killer. Becausue you can chat real time with many friends and it's fairly easy to do.
    But why would people switch from Facebook (or Friendfeed) to Wave if they have all their friends already in other places? Haven't figured it out yet. Still trying.
    And btw, Google — please add Wave to Google Docs! This is a real world scenario where it could be helpful.

  14. I personally agree with Robert here, its way way over-hyped. Frankly i don't have an invite and haven't really tried to ask anyone to get me in yet. Lets wait till all the bugs get tested, the hype to sizzle out – then the truth will be revealed.

    I was never too excited about wave (not to knock on google) anyway..Lets see how it evolves. Appreciate your honesty about wave Robert and this time i really don't feel this was a marketing strategy, or as someone put it “A post just to get clicks, etc. etc.”

  15. Yeah! There isn't much you can do at the moment. And with lack of your friends on Google Wave, its not that easy to experience it fully. I would really wish that Google Wave be available for Google Apps for Domains too.

  16. I have to agree with others that I don’t consider Google Wave in the same category as these other services or social networks you speak of. I think of it more of a small time business tool where you can collaborate with co-workers or researchers. I think the biggest advantage will be it’s price tag (free) and the developer plugins that stream into it. It can be a publishing tool as well. I probably won’t use it for personal use but purely business use. The translational plugin is fairly neat. I don’t care if I can do this already in the browser. I’m looking for something I can bring more real time without much effort. You know, have it all in one place and work with my colleagues in a group setting. Unlike IM your left in more of a chat only situation. In some cases it can be video chat but the dynamics of it are limited to what the client will support.

    I do agree the app is overhyped. Let’s hope it gets launched soon so we can stop the madness.

  17. … and I remember well that when email was introduced for the first time at my University in the early '90s, it was criticised for the lack of productivity from its users. Email became work, rather than the conduit for work.

    Once the hype dies down, this will become a truely powerful communication and collaboration platform. I'm particularly excited about its potential within the enterprise.

  18. Good to read this perspective. I tend to get overexcited about new things and forget that [in general] I can get overwhelmed with too much going on all at once. I'll keep this in mind and use it for close connections or more serious collaborations only.

  19. Inertia and the network effect is a problem with getting anything off
    the ground. Email has the advantage of coming from the earliest days
    of the Internet, so it started ubiquitous and has only grown from there.

    I very much doubt it's going to go away either. Doesn't mean it's not
    a flawed technology, coming as it does from the era when everyone
    trusted each other and spoofing and spam weren't problems.

    That's the mission statement of Wave, to build an e-mail system from
    the ground up with today's technology. Necessarily it's more complex.
    At the start it's probably going to be buggy, slow and have a rubbish
    ecosystem. Doesn't mean it's not worth having a go, and I've still got
    gmail while I wait.

  20. I know. I watched the videos and read the docs. But the difference is that Wave is competing with e-mail, which is already everywhere. As I said, every device and platform has a mail client, and on most platforms you have a pretty wide choice of mail client.

    E-mail is already trained into people, along with a whole stack of architecture that is built aroud it: boring things like mailing lists, authentication, directory services, LDAP, corporate VPNs, anti-spam/anti-virus, attachment handling and so on. We've got stacks of logic around it. And it's damn simple: you can write an app that reads mail from POP3/IMAP in about five or six lines in a high-level scripting language like Perl, Python or Ruby. All the niche uses that e-mail has gotten will never get moved over to Wave. There's not a compelling reason for someone like me to rewrite all the crufty little scripts that run just fine on top of e-mail.

  21. Here is my take but from a business and project managment perspective. In project-based industries such as construction, engineering, etc, it is important to bring into one place all the conversation about a particular topic, as an information capsule that can be passed around, and has a complete history of what has happened. The capsule or wave history if you want is the important bit, and not synchronous / realtime collaboration (although cool). In the teamworking system we developed at http://kalexo.com, we call these “threads”.

    However, there are some serious problems with the wave approach if you want to use it for project management. The first being that you need to add accountability eg make sure someone is responsible for driving the work forward (Kalexo uses a soccer ball metaphor for that). And second, you need to priotize waves and set deadlines etc.

    So it is pretty clear to me that waves won’t make much inroad into the project management space – it does only part of what is required, and focuses on the wrong angle (real-time collaboration).

  22. “Currently”. Google have released an open-source Wave server and the
    protocol, and a command-line Wave client.

    The whole structure of the Wave system is federated too, just like
    email.

    As many people can write clients as want to, it's just early days now.

  23. And if you are expecting 'email 2.0', prepare to be disappointed. It's a bloated, web-based mess that eats system resources. It'll never replace e-mail, because it'll never have the sheer choice of different clients. With e-mail, I can choose between Thunderbird or Outlook or mutt or Mac OS X's Mail app or Evolution or KMail. I use mutt and it works great. But if I want to use Wave, I currently have to use it in my browser. Every device I have that's capable of connecting to the net has an e-mail client of some variety. Only those capable of running a full desktop web browser can currently use Wave.

    You may as well say Facebook is 'email 2.0'.

  24. I think you only tried to find the negative things in it in order to attract attention by going against the current.

    I don’t really get much noise from the IM.. and the good thing about e-mail is that the noise I get I can organize it and ignore what I’m not interested in … I imagine that if you’re a teenager things might be different.

  25. Using a tool in a stupid way and then complaining the tool itself is stupid is absolutely useless information. This is just like how you used Twitter, following thousands of people and then complaining that it's become useless to you. Classic PEBKAC error.

    Anyone who was expecting something other than email 2.0 was misinformed. Sure, you could use email a bit like Twitter, for instance, but all your friends would get angry at you for cluttering their inbox. Just use Twitter. Don't use a hammer as a screwdriver.

    And on that note, unsubscribed. Scoble hasn't said anything useful for months if not years.

    1. So much agreed here. If there is anything overhyped, it is this guy called Scoble..Just trying a flame bait on the very users who make him his livelihood..huh

  26. I'm confused, why compare it with Twitter or Facebook? Google position it as “modern email”, isn't that what this is? I also don't see the “staying on top” part either, this isn't a race – is it? Why do I care that I've not replied to everything yet, I can get to in my own time. Isn't a well considered response better than a fast one?

    It seems we've gotten overhyped on one aspect – the “real time” aspect, that's not what this is (though it does demo well). this is “Google Docs” for email – the point is the message doesn't “bounce and fork”, I send a wave to a couple of people and all the conversation stays in the wave – I don't get a forked set of responses. This is the powerful part. The “real time” aspect is actually born of necessity – I might reply when someone else is replying, as forks aren't allowed the developers have two choices: “lock” a wave, or make it “real time”, they chose the latter. (Actually “locking” wouldn't work anyway – imagine someone opened a wave to reply then got distracted, how long would the wave be locked for?)

    Probably we'll all need to learn some discipline: don't create too many waves, keep the conversation in a wave, and don't add too many participants. But committees have been paralyzed by these conversational problems long before anyone even invented email!

    The developer aspects seem the most exciting, and I'm sure integration with Twitter et al will help put Google Wave into it's proper context (which is probably more like email than anything else). My worry is wave spam, and wave malware – it's bound to happen and could swamp the system really easily.

    So is it “overhyped”? Well I think too much attention has been paid to the “real time” aspect, which is a necessity of its “non-bouncing” nature, and not really a feature in itself.

  27. Interesting observation. Quite possibly the most negative review of Google Wave that I have come across. But may also be the most practical one.
    Anyway, I am still waiting for an invite.

  28. Sorry, mate, but you really need to get out of that Twitter/FriendFeed loop you got stuck in a year and a half ago.
    Of couirse it's not a Twitter killer, it never was intended for it.

    And I really thought you would realise what you're looking at. This app is still developing, for developers and people to deliver input to the team. What is it that you have actually seen?
    To call this “review” premature is an understatement. Rather give some useful input on the forums or other channels, that would be real contr4ibution.

  29. I haven't used the product but I did watch the initial demo when it was announced. I totally agree with Scoble on this one. The Google Wave developers described Wave akin to “email had it been invented today as opposed to 40 years ago.” THEY and no one else created the initial comparisons to email.

    From what I have seen so far, if Wave is aimed at replacing email, it will fail. I do see use-cases in niche scenarios for tight groups working on projects that have tons of real-time activity streams. However, other than that, the product appears way too noisy to be an effective replacement for email.

    Email succeeded – and has continued to succeed several decades hence – because it is SIMPLE.

    In contrast, just staring at screen-shots of Wave gives me a headache due to visual pollution and noise. That is a very bad sign.

  30. Documents are also becoming more rich media intensive than Google Docs can handle well. For strictly text based editing, Google Docs rocks.

    You've made an important point in pointing out that wave is great tech for developers to leverage. I'd love to see collaborative media editing or music recording done using wave state.

    Wave is much more than a text editor, it's a way for groups of people to manipulate data together.

  31. I reviewed Wave back in August and came to much the same conclusions:
    http://tommorris.org/blog/2009/08/08#When:15:50:47

    The whole thing is so stupid. I mean, it's supposed to be an e-mail killer. As I said in the review, every dumb phone on the market has POP3/IMAP/SMTP support. Everything talks e-mail. The only problem with e-mail is some people are too stupid to use it correctly. Well, I have a simple solution to that: stop talking to them. E-mail, if everyone does it right, is quicker and more flexible than Wave.

  32. It seems like there's a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of this new platform.

    Google Wave is not trying to be Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc.; it is not attempting to replace them. They are towers in the city of social networking residing on the continent of collaborative publishing, which is only one of the many “continents” that Wave is attempting to be the ground that they can be connected by.

    The above is a fairly poor metaphor that can't bear much scrutiny, but I say it because I know of no other way to express how big and overarching that Wave is; how much it can do.

    I think it's going to take some time to fully understand its potential. Announcements that say it is useless or doesn't bring anything new to the table seem to me to be fairly myopic.

    Consider its usage purely as a translation machine, or as a way to keep ongoing track of a subject using a Wave as a “feed reader plus”, where not only can you include RSS feeds but have it be bot-populated by Tweets, blog posts and more that match keyword criteria–including ones that are foreign languages, thanks to its translator (I understand that there is a search engine that largely already does this. However, you can now use have a bot populate your wave with that engine's output and then do things with *it*).

    So give it some time. There's going to be some mind-blowing uses of this thing to come in the coming weeks, months and years.

  33. Your review misses the point. The Wave GUI is a reference implementation. Its only purpose is to have some application to demonstrate the protocol on. So the reference app is not Google Wave, it’s only a demo.

    The Wave infrastructure is going to be utilized for something actually useful by the API developers and users. This use is yet to be find.

    So there is no overhype, because not the GUI is hyped, but rather the protocol.

  34. Em still waitin to surf on it…lets see hw high the reality is gonna scoop..instead, once the wave rolls, indiscriminate loiterin in it must bring some more amendments which might eventually suit a class of surfers..the question is how lucid, glib and informative the sail is gonna be…

  35. Apparently, you don't or don't want to understand what is Google Wave. That is your decision, but why the hell are you pushing other people away from it? As a blogger you shouldn't do this.

    You wrote an absolutely tunnel-visioned and upset post about something great new thing.

    Maybe you just want some more visitors with this unfair post. But i think you should stop posting crap!!!

  36. I agree that real-time edits can be distracting. But from the original Google Wave screencast you're told you can disable IM-like real-time character updates. I believe Google experimented with this feature to see what its potential value might be.

    So far I'm still “on my own” with my Wave account, as apparently I'm the only one in my contacts who already has a Wave account. So I'll still have to be “overwhelmed” by massive parallel edits :-)

    Olivier Biot

  37. You completely misunderstood the use cases for this platform. It is a realtime collaborative publishing tool. You and Louis are edge cases. Wave is not intended to replace Twitter or FriendFeed, which are more about individuals broadcasting to the masses, marketing themselves, amassing followers, curating egos, etc.

    1. Scott you’re right!

      Robert, you should take a look at my extremely messy Lotus Notes enterprise installation, clogged by hundreds of emails with hilarious subjects like “Re: Rif: R: Fwd: Rif: Re: Artwork XYZ”. You would understand for sure how more effective and ordered could be a Wave in these situations, where all the replies are listed inside the same thread, where thanks to the playback you can rewind the wave, and where actions are extremely flexible.

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