What a week it has been. I spent Monday and today working on a sample app using OAuth2 and the new REST apis (more coming soon!), Tuesday and Wednesday in a HTML5 training class (lots more coming soon!), and in the middle of it, Google announces that Google Wave is no more. In a world of rapidly changing technical landscape, I guess pace like this is par for the course.
It is no secret that I was actively involved in working with the Wave team, and it is certainly a big blow to Dan, Lars and co. Without a doubt the technology was great, and very innovative, but it got me thinking. There are so many times in our history where a great idea or technology just did not get traction for a number of reasons—most often it was the lack of consumer demand.
Take the recent introduction of 3D TV. It is without a doubt a cool technology, but go to a video store (you remember those things before Apple TV, Netflix etc…) and I challenge you to find more than a handful of movies made for 3D TV. The reason for this is, a) yes it is new technology, but b) motion picture companies are waiting to see consumer demand for the 3D TVs to pick up and help them justify the investment. Kind of sounds like a chicken and an egg situation doesn't it? More people are likely buy 3D TVs if there were more movies available (me on the other hand will wait 5 years until the technology is available that I don't have to wear those oh-so-cool glasses in my living room!). Interestingly enough, the TV industry has seen this type of chicken and egg before. When color TVs were introduced they almost didn't take off as TV studios didn't want to invest in broadcasting in color until there was sufficient demand.
But, with all of that said, I have no doubt 3D TVs will become hugely popular. And why is that? If you ask me, it is because the consumer (us) already understands what 3D is, and most of us, if we have gone to the movies in the past few years, have experienced the incredible effects of 3D movies—- we know what to expect. We have been taught, and trained that 3D is cool and exciting.
This is not dissimilar to the amazing success of Chatter, and unfortunately the downfall of Wave. Chatter took the paradigms of Facebook—newsfeeds, posts, profiles, following people etc—and brought it to a brand new audience (just like Sony et al are doing by bring 3D into your home) while making innovations of its own to appeal to its consumers. The powerful, and very smart thing about Chatter, is that thanks to Facebook half a billion people already understood the paradigm and adoption of Chatter has grown like wildfire. Wave unfortunately—super cool technology as it is/was (remember the majority of Wave has been open sourced so there is certainly life after death in this case!)—the paradigm was too unfamiliar. It is hard enough to build a killer app, let alone having to educate the consumer why it is so killer.
Where does that leave us who study the tech space? Disheartened that great technology and great friends were not successful…yes that is true, but also wiser in the knowledge that truly successful technology is people driven, and we should never forget that!.