Google Wave will rise again, in one form or another

Portions of the innovative XMPP-based collaboration tool will appear in future products from Google and third parties

Both Google and outside observers had high aspirations for Wave, Google's browser-based collaboration platform. Google hoped Wave would revolutionize the way users communicated and worked; some experts went so far as to bill the offering as a worthy Microsoft SharePoint rival.

But today, just two and a half months after making the product widely available, Google announced it's going to stop developing Wave as a stand-alone product due to lack of user adoption. You could chalk up that poor showing to the fact that Wave was too confusing for users -- or perhaps because users or organization couldn't figure out how to fit the tool into their workflow or social interactions. Does that reflect a poorly designed product? Maybe it's more indicative of a product that's ahead of its time, one better suited for a generation of end-users more accustomed to a platform that integrates various forms of communication and applications à la Facebook.

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The good news: Wave isn't disappearing entirely. Portions of the code and protocols it uses will be put to work in other Google products as well as third-party offerings, ones that could help bridge the gap between today's siloed approach to communication and collaboration and tomorrow's world of integrated, cloud-based services.

Moreover, vendors such as Novell, Oracle, and who have integrated portions Wave code with their product offerings will be able to continue using the technology. "We will work on developing tools for customers to easily 'liberate' their content from Wave," a Google spokesperson told me via email.

Portions of Wave will also be available to future developers. "The central parts of the source code, as well as the protocols that have driven many Wave innovations, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began," the Google spokesperson said.

If you're unfamiliar with Wave, here's the short of it: It's a hosted collaboration Swiss Army knife that combines email, IM, document sharing, blogs, wikis, and multimedia management. Users are able to collaborate and share documents in real time, as with SharePoint.

Each set of files and threads pertaining to a specific subject is a Wave; for example, a company might have a single Wave containing all files, images, and communications with a specific customer or among particular users working on a given project. That's a lot of information and functionality bouncing around in a single pane of glass, compared to, say, grabbing emails from Outlook or Gmail, IMs from AIM or Trillian, documents from your Documents folder or CMS, sales info from your CRM app or service, and so forth.

Wave's user-oriented features in and of themselves may sound familiar when compared to what you've seen in, say, SharePoint (formerly Groove). Some of the real innovation -- and the reason Wave earned so much interest among some analysts -- is its underlying architecture, based on the open-messaging standard XMPP. Technologist Jason Kolb (who founded Latigent, later acquired by Cisco) wrote an in-depth analysis of Wave architecture last September, which may shed some light on why the product had garnered much excitement and interest.

"In a nutshell, this is the next revolutionary leap in Internet application architecture," Kolb wrote. "Maybe the first truly revolutionary leap since HTTP itself."

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