Blog — August 11, 2010 18:27 — 2 Comments
Innovation gives Google its edge
When Google Wave first hit public consciousness the demos of what it could do and how it could easily allow effective real-time collaboration were highly appealing. The headlines at the time suggested that it would revolutionise and perhaps even supersede plain old email.
That was only back in May ’09, yet, despite the buzz around initial release it has not been the success that Google hoped for and it was recently announced that development of the platform would cease.
But it would be premature to mark this as another own-goal from Google along the lines of the bad PR over the Buzz launch or the StreetView WiFi snooping fiasco. It’s not. Google Wave, though admittedly challenging to new users, has within its guts a huge number of innovations and software ideas. Bits and pieces of that underlying code have already made their way into other projects and developments by Google’s engineers. And some of that code will also make it into the wild as open source elements which anyone can make use of. Wave’s demise is not part of some wider downward trend, but instead flags up why Google manages to remain, thus far, at the top of its game.
Though Google Wave has not been the runaway success that its engineers might have hoped for, what it has done is provide many more useful building blocks which will show up in other tools that we will come to enjoy with little thought to how they got there. A good example is the unthinking ability to now just drag and drop attachments straight into a browser window whilst using Gmail in order to add a mail attachment or save it to the desktop.
It brings to mind the somewhat hackneyed phrase about needing to break a few eggs to make an omelette. Google has never been afraid to let its engineers cook up whatever they like in the spare 20 percent of time it allows them to work on their own projects. It’s that innovation that has allowed a company, which was just another search engine a few years ago, to come to dominate so many aspects of the daily web.
That’s why such ‘failures’ as Google Wave ultimately breed success. It may not have resulted in a communication tool that has been embraced by the web at large, but many of those innovations will live on and inspire new ideas that will emerge from Google Labs.
The day that Google stops cooking up new, if perhaps flawed, ideas is likely the time that it will be outpaced by yet another new web upstart desperate to make waves of its own.
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