All posts tagged ‘Google Wave’

File Under: Web Services

Crashing Google Wave Finds New Life in Open Source

Google recently announced it will shut down Google Wave, the company’s web app for real-time collaboration, in April 2012.

Google had previously all but abandoned Wave, ceasing new development over a year ago, but soon all traces of Wave will be removed from the web. Wave will become read-only in January 2012, meaning users will no longer be able to create new waves. After that Google Wave users have until April 30 to export their content before the service shuts down completely.

The official demise of Google Wave is part of a larger spring-cleaning effort that will also see Google shut down services like Google Friend Connect, Google Gears and Google Knol, among others. Despite the heavy hype that accompanied its launch, Google Wave, like Knol and other soon-to-close services, just never caught on with average users. As the Google blog blithely puts it, these services “haven’t had the impact [the company] hoped for.”

While Google claims that cutting the cruft like Wave will help it refocus its efforts on more popular Google services, that’s not much consolation for fans of the doomed Wave.

Fortunately for Wave fans, the code behind Google’s service has been turned over to the Apache Software Foundation for safe open source keeping. There’s even a service, “Wave in a Box,” which replicates the basic Google Wave experience.

Wave in a Box consists of two parts, a standalone wave server and a web client. The Wave in a Box web client looks a bit different than Google’s Wave user interface, but the same features are present. The Wave in a Box tools also have the distinct advantage of decentralization. Developers can run wave servers and host waves on their own hardware without Google being involved in any way.

If you’d like to take Wave in a Box for a spin, head over to the demo site and sign up for an account. While the user interface is considerably more bare bones than the Google version, the demo site is nevertheless usable and surprisingly snappy.

If you like what you see, you can install Wave on your own server. Just grab the source code from the Apache site.

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File Under: Web Apps

Google Bails on Wave

Google is halting development on Wave, its web app for real-time communication.

“We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product,” Google Senior Vice President of Operations Urs Hölzle said on the official Google Blog Wednesday.

The company cites slow user adoption as the reason for its decision. Google will continue to support Wave through the end of the year, at which point the product will be phased out.

Wave debuted in May, 2009 at Google I/O, the company’s yearly developer conference. Developers were excited about Wave — it incorporated several new technologies that simultaneously pushed the boundaries of what was possible in browser-based apps, and tapped into the craze of real-time communication fueled by Twitter and Facebook. You typed something into a Wave, and your collaborators at the other end of the line saw what you were typing almost immediately. Everything was built in JavaScript and HTML5. We were intrigued by its possibilities, and we even proclaimed that Wave could one day replace the e-mail inbox as our primary form of communication.

In the weeks after Wave’s debut, invitations to the beta test were scarce, and the unlucky souls stuck on the outside were clamoring to get in.

But once they started using Wave, most people were confused about how it fit into their lives. Sure, Wave let you collaborate with several people at once on documents, share photos with multiple recipients, and it created a searchable, editable stream of pure information. But there are already a raft of tools to do these things — it’s easy enough to use Google Docs to collaborate on documents, there are plenty of photo sharing services users are already invested in, and the search and chat tools inside Gmail are well above par. Wave just seemed a bit too crowded with information — it was e-mail, chat, media sharing and document editing all rolled into one (admittedly busy) interface — and the fucntionality too redundant.

Hölzle admits Googlers were scratching their heads, too:

We were equally jazzed about Google Wave internally, even though we weren’t quite sure how users would respond to this radically different kind of communication. The use cases we’ve seen show the power of this technology: sharing images and other media in real time; improving spell-checking by understanding not just an individual word, but also the context of each word; and enabling third-party developers to build new tools like consumer gadgets for travel, or robots to check code.

But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.

It’s likely that Google will continue to use the technology born in Wave to enhance the products it was intended to replace, like Gmail and Google Docs. Docs already has an excellent real-time backend sharing system that lets you see others’ edits with very low latency, and Gmail continues to show itself as not only a robust web app but a mini app platform, with things like video chat, document editing, Twitter-like status updates and cloud-based storage built in.

Buzz, another product launched at an I/O event, is also a likely home for some of Wave’s technology. The service is in a tight race with Twitter and Facebook to deliver real-time status updates to the masses. Last month, the company opened up its firehose, allowing developers to access shared updates and media as quickly as possible.

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