If you haven't heard, Google have announced they are pulling the plug on Wave, their interactive, real-time communication product. It's a shame but I can understand why. It never really took off. Google have blamed lack of user adoption for the poor showing, and maybe that's true, but in the end if people aren't using your product: it's not their fault - it's yours. I was one of those who trumpeted Wave - not as world-changing über-tech but certainly as a tool which could "change the way free software is developed". Time for some humble pie then.
I don't mind being wrong, I've been wrong before and will be again I am sure. In my defence I did speak more of Wave's potential to assist free software development that being "outstripping Twitter and Facebook by 2011". I do think it's a shame that Wave didn't live up to its claims but according to Google the technology will live on - particularly the open parts. It's still unclear how free those "open source" parts will be, but that in itself could be one of the reasons why it was not taken up. As much as we are told the world doesn't care about freedom in its software (the traditional "as long as it works I'm happy" argument), it seems the web does increasingly care about freedom and related to that -- privacy. Wave came out at the beginning of a period where Google's image wavered. No longer were they the company who "did no evil", during the past year they seem to have drifted from that ethos into "do no evil we can't get away with". Witness the recent talks with Verizon as a prime example. Their shenanigans with the Chinese government for another.
Is it possible that Wave failed to take off because people are growing more cautious of putting so many eggs in one basket?
Is it possible that Wave failed to take off because people are growing more cautious of putting so many eggs in one basket? In the past year, Facebook has also come under significant scrutiny for the way they handle personal data. Perhaps the average web user is starting to realise they can't blindly trust companies to do the right thing. If so this is a good thing if only because it could mean they are more open to the ideals behind free software. Once people start getting concerned over what happens to their personal data they might start to realise why we keep banging on about freedom in software. I'm not suggesting the free software community can use Wave's demise to further its own cause, but certainly if even some of the users who didn't take up Wave did so for similar reasons to those I've mentioned, it could be the start of something.
Of course I am guessing here and have no greater chance than Google of finding out why people didn't use Wave. Perhaps they didn't want another site to sign up to. After all they have Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube et al. Maybe Wave was one step too far. That might be so But I'm kind of hoping that for some, there was a concern over freedom involved too.