Google Wave to dissipate
Google has announced that it is discontinuing development of Google Wave, its "all-in-one" collaboration tool originally launched in May 2009 at the Google I/O conference. Google says it made the decision after user adoption failed to meet expectations. Wave attempted to unify email, instant messaging, collaborative document editing and other communications in a single common model, with a very interactive web application front end. Google were expecting much greater take up after opening the service to all users three months ago.
Underlying the system was the Jabber XMPP protocol and Operational Transform, a protocol for exchanging communication updates between Wave servers, allowing these servers to federate together. The ambitious project hit problems early on with performance and usability and although Google's developers resolved many of those issues, Wave still had a steep learning curve. Simultaneous changes in the same conversations made Waves with large numbers of users hard to follow and quickly lead to confusion. Users who adapted, usually by restricting participants in a conversation to a small group, found Wave to be a useful collaborative tool.
Google say that the standalone service at wave.google.com will be maintained "at least through the end of the year" and it plans to reuse the technology in other Google projects. The OT protocols were open-sourced in July 2009 and components in the Wave user interface have since also been open sourced. However other parts of the Wave technology remain proprietary and unlike AppJet's Etherpad which it open sourced after acquiring the company for its development team, Google has not announced plans to release them. Google has said it plans to work on tools to let users "liberate their content from Wave" but has given no further details.