Friday, August 13, 2010

Google Wave is Dead... Or Is It? A Potential Way Forward

This is a cross-post from my blog on the Military Social Networking system milBook.

On August 4, 2010, Google announced that they were going to discontinue development on Google Wave. This came as a surprise to much of the community of users and supporters of Wave, and sparked an outpouring of commentary on the topic in the Blogosphere. These postings included how Google doesn't do Social Media, how Google botched the rollout of the system, and how Google did the right thing by cutting their losses. All of these missed one point: the value of the technology itself.

At this point I need to make sure to mention that the biased opinions expressed here are strictly those of the author, and do not represent the position of the Government or any company that is doing business or may do business with the Government.

As I have looked over all of this and thought about the implications, I am not so sure that Google abandoning development of Wave is a bad thing. The Federal Wave project (FedWave), which is intended to introduce Wave into the Government, was never going to use the Google product based in the Cloud. Instead, the plan is to leverage the open source version of the system called FedOne. It has been slow going, but the effort continues to stand up a server on a closed development environment (called RACE) on the Military network.

Even though Google has given up on Wave, other large companies have not. Novell Pulse development continues, and the company had this to say about their commitment to Enterprise collaboration. SAP continues to develop their Wave-based product StreamWork, and had this to say about Google's decision.One conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the Wave protocol can be an excellent basis for interoperable collaboration between disparate systems, and several large tech companies see this.

In addition to large companies sticking with Wave, there is also a grassroots movement out there called, appropriately enough, Save Google Wave. There is a Facebook page, Google Group, Twitter feed and waves on the topic. Very interesting to note that I am not the only believer in this technology, and also not nearly the most passionate.

On a more practical level, there is an informal group forming called the The Wave Consortium that is looking at the future of Wave and how the open sourcing of the platform and protocol could happen. I am participating in the Consortium in order to represent the interests of potential Government users (and developers) and promote FedWave to the greater Wave community.

That all being said, here is a proposed potential way forward, which I am choosing to call the FedWave Manifesto (for now):

1. The Google Wave platform, and the Wave Federation Protocol have the demonstrated potential to enable interoperable collaboration in Joint, Interagency, Intergovernment, and Multinational environments (including commercial) known as JIIM+. Federal Wave (FedWave) will leverage this technology for use in Government.

2. Government-centric use cases and user stories need to continue to be developed and extended in order to prioritize and direct FedWave development efforts. Sponsoring agencies will be able to influence the direction this development effort takes based on committed resources.

3. FedWave will be Government sponsored Open Source Software that will be developed in a collaborative manner, utilizing approved tools such as and the DISA RACE environment. Security and usability will be built in, not bolted on. User suggestions and feedback will be an integral part of the process as Agile Development methodologies will be used whenever possible.

4. As the overall Wave community continues to organize and evolve, FedWave will remain a participating member of this larger group in order to make sure the Government's requirements are represented as the Wave platform and protocol matures.

This is only a first cut at a manifesto, and I would like feedback so this can capture collective wisdom. 

I hope this post will encourage discussion (and dissent) on this topic. Again, this is only my opinion, and I am very passionate about this technology.  Please comment below as you are so moved. Thanks for reading.