In a way, Google Wave was a product ahead of its time. It was the first unified workspace and collaboration platform – two things that the remote work boom (during the COVID pandemic) work made essential.
Wave was Google’s attempt to integrate email, group chat, and document collaboration into one modern (for its time) platform.
Google Wave actually garnered a lot of attention pre-release and a lot of people (millions) were queuing up for early access. However, the release version wasn’t up to par with the very high expectations – a fact reflected by the abysmal user retention rates of the new platform.
The product lacked focus, which meant that most users were confused about what they were supposed to do with it. Although it might seem obvious after the remote work boom who the target users of Wave need to be, in 2010 Google wasn’t directly targeting work teams. This positioning problem meant that a lot of the people who tried it out, in reality, weren’t the target audience. Even those users that had trouble understanding its value because there was no precedent, and the development team’s lack of focus and understanding of their own target market meant that they failed to communicate said value well enough in order to keep their users engaged.
Consequently, the initial hype for Wave quickly turned into disappointment and lack of traction, which led to its slow death within two years.
Even though it wasn’t commercially successful, it’s interesting to keep in mind Wave was the innovator in a market that currently looks like this: