Way too much information in one place.
That's the verdict on Google's (GOOG) new Wave real-time collaboration technology that was unveiled to 100,000 lucky invitees over the past week. While many bloggers posted rapturous reviews, the consensus among a handful of early adopters and super technorati was that Wave took all the complications and distractions of multitasking on the Web -- and made them far more complicated and far harder to handle. In a nutshell, Wave sets a new standard for ADD-inducing information overload.
What was the original intent of Wave? Wave would meld email, IM, Twitter, commenting, document editing and eventually voice into a single in-box interface. Emails would merge with IM threads and document changes, all morphing and shifting in real time. All the comments and information entered into a conversation thread by various participants would be visible as it changed. Sound complicated to you? Some of the most Internet-savvy folks on Earth seem to feel that way as well.
Caveat reader: I myself have not been graced by a Wave invite and am waiting for Google to send me one. That said, when I first read about Wave, I scratched my head and thought, "This thing could either be amazingly cool or amazingly awful." Apparently, the latter is more the case and Google has taken a very public beating for this ambitious foray.
How much of a beating? Here's what the normally positive super-blogger Robert Scoble had to say about his experience with Google Wave. Writes Scoble, "... this service is way overhyped and as people start to use it they will realize it brings the worst of email and IM together: unproductivity." Whoa. Or take a look at what another usually positive, highly-read blogger, Steve Rubel, thought about Wave. Ruble intones, "It's slick to be sure. However, what I keep asking myself is this: what problem does it solve? In many ways it's overly complex. In fact it's too complex for the era of the Attention Crash where all of us, especially knowledge workers, are crying for simplicity."
I could cite a number of other big-time Web gurus who speak ill of Wave, but the bottom line is, in an era when a movie's reputation is cemented by Twitter in the first 30 minutes after its premiere, Google Wave will have a steep mountain to climb if it's going to catch on with the general public, let alone live up to its hype. Perhaps most damning of all, a number of these same bloggers said that Wave was a bit ahead of its time. That's essentially the same as saying it's a product for engineers, by engineers, and not really designed for the general public.
In reality, Wave will face another problem in adoption. Most of the heavy Internet users I know have already adopted collaboration tools that serve them quite nicely, even if their interfaces are not as slick or contained. Sharing documents simultaneously online is possible now, as is merging IM and email (Google itself does this fairly well with its GChat system). So, like Steve Rubel said, Wave could well be a solution in search of a problem.
The team that built Wave is among Google's best. They helped design much of Google's top-notch mapping and location-based information services (of which I am an avid fan and a voracious consumer). With Wave, they are clearly shooting for the moon and trying to establish Google as the platform for the next generation of collaboration and information sharing. I can't really put a personal judgment down yet, as I have yet to be invited to the party. But I'm certainly going in with my eyes wide open after this rude reception.
Information overload: Google's Wave technology panned by top bloggers