Thursday, August 5, 2010

Don't blame the customers for discontinuing your product

The official google blog announced that they will stop developing google wave as a standalone product, but "will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects". But what called my attention was this statement:
Last year at Google I/O, when we launched our developer preview of Google Wave, a web app for real time communication and collaboration, it set a high bar for what was possible in a web browser. We showed character-by-character live typing, and the ability to drag-and-drop files from the desktop, even “playback” the history of changes—all within a browser.
They forgot to mention that this drag-and-drop is not true for all browsers, and for all operating systems. That in some cases one does not want live typing - I may not want to show my lack of coordination and misspellings. And that the playback is a terrible waste of time (seriously, re-read everything to find what changed? Timestamps, anyone?). And that they were so selective in giving access to wave that the "chosen ones" became lonely.

And no, they weren't "setting the bar" for what's possible in a web browser, they were presenting wave as a replacement for e-mail. And on this, they failed miserably: they forgot that an e-mail is not used only with people you can trust, that will not mess with your text and that can have real-time information about your availability, for instance. E-mails are also used in professional contexts, for example, where you must have privacy and documented proof about what you wrote (no, showing the playback doesn't cut it, fellows).

Can anyone imagine a conversation with your company's competitors, or a political discussion between a university's alumni, or a letter of concern to a publisher or government body going on over wave?Or how your contact list would look like with all this people there?  Not to mention the easiness at which you can mistakenly include someone in the recipient list, and the impossibility of fixing it. But it's drag-and-drop, you see.

Not that many people will miss it (after all, that's why they are giving up), and I think that google docs is a good replacement for wave's average usage. But as a google enthusiast, I was very disappointed at how soon they forgot their original plan and started changing the target- or at how poorly they envisioned the e-mail.

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