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Why didn't Google Wave boot up?
By Dave Winer on Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 3:45 AM.

A picture named julia.jpgI specialize in the kind of software that Google Wave is. Blogging is an example. So is RSS and podcasting -- those were the successes. I also started a BBS in the early 80s that worked. permalink

For all that success, there have been many more failures. For example I've been trying to boot up a network based on Instant Outlining for almost a decade. Longer, if you count work I did going back to the 80s at Living Videotext. So far, it hasn't gained traction. Still hunting for the magic formula.  permalink

So there's no shame, as far as I'm concerned, in trying to launch a network of computer users, and having it not boot up. permalink

So why didn't Google Wave happen? permalink

Here's the problem -- when I signed on to Wave, I didn't see anything interesting. It was up to me, the user, to figure out how to sell it. But I didn't understand what it was, or what its capabilities were, and I was busy, always. Even so I would have put the time in if it looked interesting, but it didn't.  permalink

However, it had another problem. Even if there were incentives to put time into it, and even if I understood how it worked or even what it did, it still wouldn't have booted up because of the invite-only thing. It's the same problem every Twitter-would-be or Facebook-like thing has. My friends aren't here, so who do I communicate with? But with Wave it was even worse because even if I loved Wave and wanted everyone to use it, it was invite-only. So the best evangelist would still have to plead with Google to add all of his workgroup members to the invite list. The larger your workgroup the more begging you have to do. This is exactly the opposite of how you want it to work if you're in Google's shoes.  permalink

I assume they were worried about how the system would perform if they got too many users. It's as if, starting a baseball season, you worry about where you're going to put the World Series trophy. It's not something you need to worry about. You might even say you jinx your prospects for success if you put that in the front of your mind. permalink

Anyway, Google Wave was tilted in the wrong direction.  permalink

1. Hard to understand. permalink

2. Nothing happening. permalink

3. My friends aren't there. permalink

4. Even if they wanted to come, I'd have to get them invites. (I did have a certain number of invites to give to my friends, but not enough to let me broadcast about it on my blog.) permalink

5. Why should I bother? permalink

When I started using Twitter, it was: permalink

1. Easy to understand. permalink

2. There was stuff already happening. permalink

3. Most of my friends weren't there, but some were. (Notably Ross Mayfield, who was pushing hard for people to join.) permalink

4. Anyone could join, you didn't need an invite. permalink

5. No reason for me to bother, as with Wave, I was just a user. But I couldn't help but write about what I was doing, I'm a NBB, that's what I do.  permalink

Moral of the story... permalink

1. Before you roll out a community-based product, use it yourself to inform a modest community of users. Hopefully a small one, that loves you and the product, so they'll keep coming back even if they don't get what it does. Until you gain traction at that level, don't go any further. permalink

2. Something is happening (see step 1), make sure every new user sees it. Every step before seeing the action is a chance for them not to get it, so get them there right away. permalink

3. Their friends probably aren't there. Fact of life, nothing to be done about that.  permalink

So even if everything is right, the net might not boot up. That's way these things go. Try again, if you still think there's something there. It could the time isn't right. It took three or four launches before podcasting booted up. There were lots of community blogging sites before Blogger took off. Sometimes it's just the timing.  permalink

BTW, to see what users are willing to do to get an invite, check out this video permalink


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