Google Wave's Failure is a Great Lesson for Modern Real-Time Collaboration Tools
7 min read
🌊 Google Wave was a tool like no other at the time. It was a unified workspace and collaboration platform before the remote work boom happened.
When Google Wave previewed at the 2009 I/O conference, it was a tool like no other. Not only was it the first unified workspace and collaboration platform before the remote-work boom happened, but it also tried to solve many of the same problems we're facing today.

And yet, in less than two years, Google Wave failed.

When we look at how the platform was rolled out, it's not surprising it ended up a mere blip in the history of SaaS innovation. Lack of product focus, positioning problems and lackluster release plan were only some of its problems.

Nowadays, as more companies are adopting the distributed model, it's important that we learn from Wave's mistakes. With the renaissance of real-time collaboration tools in full swing, reflecting on the story of their predecessor can provide valuable lessons for the future.

On the off chance that you haven't heard about Google Wave before, be sure to watch this short video before you continue reading:

Google Wave introduction.

The History of Google Wave 🌊

Google Wave started with a single question: "What would email look like if it were invented today?" This question gave rise to one of the most ambitious real-time collaboration tools ever created.

Let's see how Wave's development unfolded, from its inception under the codename "Walkabout" to the eventual shutdown in April 2012 and open-source retirement in 2018.

2006–2008: Inception to Product Release 🌱

Wave's story started in October 2004 when Google bought a mapping startup called Where 2 Tech. That acquisition came bundled with a fledgling technology that would eventually become commuters' favorite, Google Maps.

The responsibility for the new project was given to brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen who became its lead developers. As they worked toward an initial Maps release, the brothers started to think about what might be next for them at Google.

The idea to focus on communication came from Jens who noticed a significant shift in the way people interacted…
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