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.


  1. It seems to me that you are saying that the (perhaps stoppable) demise of Google Wave is not really a bad thing, with your reasons given for that being that Wave applications exist or can exist without Google now.

    But am I not right that these provisions or developments you're writing about are, at least now (and, perhaps, forseeably, I don't know about them) limited to specific private or closed circle uses - coroporate and government. (And after that you're relying on the hope or promise that some other company will come along with the Open Source code and set up a new Wave service. But who would do that without charging? What company is wealthy enough, established enough and secure enough to offer that as a free side product?)

    What good would alternative closed circle Wave applications be for most people? The point of Wave being available from one of the hugest and most familiar companies involved in computing services is that anyone can access it.

    Google just have not taken Wave seriously. It's very disappointing. It's the natural development from email and instant messaging. But actually, it's so inherently natural to The Web network that it's in fact works out as a basic, definitive function of The Web (now that finally, recently, the function became widely available at last).

    Opening it by invitation only in a short period of time, then launching to all a very short time before withdrawal suggests only extreme disinterest. Especially from the people who probably know everything there is to know about online promotion, and more than nearly any other large company about launching and promoting new avenues, whether their own developments or takeovers.

    Isn't this just to damn humanity's potential for basic funtioning to withdraw this service? As many have suggested, Google could easily widen the user base and popularity of Wave, incorporating it within Gmail, actually even promoting it much at all for a start would be one way. Google know all about this. It's their own mystery why they don't want to do this.

    Why don't they even devote a third of promotional attention to Wave as they have done to Adwords? Well, simply, Adwords is their money, it's what they worship. Wave is, so far, not a revenue avenue. But the costs for the poor businesses struggling with Adwords are so high, one might expect that the way Google has been developing - Labs and especially Wave - could be the only legitimate way that this huge, monopolistic, high fee charging company could be operating to support businesses, research and study.

    Google has other ideas. At the end of the day Wave is not a money maker, and one can't help but feel that what Google are doing in dropping Wave (still it is hoped it doesn't go) is symbolic with what they're about. It's not hard to see that Google is sending a large ID message. The territory is mapped and possessed, perhaps now it's being outlined what it's all about.

  2. ... Unless you are saying that The US Government's Fedwave is going to be available free in an unlimited and easy access way to each citizen of every country. Could that be right?

  3. lcb, thanks for your comments.

    As far as it goes, FedWave is designed for use by Government and the Military, not the general population. It would allow for federated collaboration with civilian Wave servers, however.

    The vision is that there would be commercial Wave service providers that would pick up after Google discontinues their current site. I believe that many existing Internet Service Providers (ISP's) like Comcast might be persuaded to add Wave to their list of services, so having to generate revenues might not be an issue. Also, there is still a push to create an open source server that would allow small businesses and not-for-profits to stand up a free server so they could also have Wave. There are a lot of passionate people working on this and other things regarding the future of Wave.

    Google's actions around Wave are very interesting to me. They have spent (by all reports) a fair amount of money to build and roll out the product, and have not been very smooth in marketing or driving adoption. My personal belief is that the business case for Wave was never that strong (adwords and search are still Google's core business) and other forces are at work within Google that have produced the current situation. How they handle open sourcing the code is what I care about, and how they handle that is the next step in Wave's evolution.

    I hope I addressed your questions. Thanks again for commenting.