Google Wave is being discontinued as a standalone product. I’m not sure whether to be surprised. On the one hand, it seemed like if anyone could solve some of the flaws of email and get people to actually adopt it, it would be Google. On the other hand, I was tremendously excited about Wave… but I never used it.
It seems that with networks as big as email, there are no good ways to push out a new protocol. If you let everyone in right away, it doesn’t scale. If you slowly add users, people’s friends are not on it when it’s fresh in their minds. If you make it a separate product, it’s an inconvenience. If you make it part of an existing product, users object to having it foisted upon them.
Still, Wave contained some fundamentally good ideas. It makes sense to have an email client that can handle scheduling or collaborative document editing or shared to-do lists or threaded discussions; that is, instead of sending an email with a link to a web-app, why not send an email with a webapp in it? It also makes sense to create open protocols instead of closed systems, especially if you want to build off of something as widely adopted as email. (Not that open protocols are guaranteed winners. Many open-source proponents would like to paint the history of the internet as a steady progression away from “walled gardens”, but that’s not necessarily the case.)
What do you think? Will Wave rise again, or sink into obscurity? Will the email client of some decades hence look much like one today, or will email’s role be filled by something different? Will it be in FULL 3D? It’s the future, after all.