It’s a question posed by many – will Google Wave make it into the mainstream? And I believe the current answer is no it will not; and it will remain no until a few things are fixed and addressed. Also, just to be clear, I’m not talking about the bugs and errors that we are seeing in the preview due to it being an unfinished product. We also have 20 Google Wave invites to give out – see the bottom of the post for details.
People who are explaining the service need to be able to explain it in a short and concise manner. I’m not talking about calling it “Email if it were invented today” either. Because frankly, I do not think that describes it at all – what does that even mean, anyway? People who are unfamiliar with it would just write it off as another time wasting service that (attempts to) replace an already existing one that is so well integrated within our society (probably more so than any other “new technology”). Needless to say, Google Wave needs a (shorter) better description. The current one will not catch on.
It needs much better documentation that is available to users right off the bat. Even as preview users (who are most likely somewhat tech savvy) not everything is completely clear from the first time you login. I had to be invited into Waves that discussed extensive documentation and tips. It shouldn’t be that way. That knowledge should be readily available from the first time you sign in.
One of the things Wave does very well is thread conversations/discussions as well as allowing people to easily enter mid-conversation and know what’s being discussed. In that sense it is definitely much better than email or IM. However, I’m sure email clients (even web based ones such as Gmail) could add additional features that allow for a more “threaded” conversation feel. So really, that just leaves Google Wave better at adding people at mid-conversation (which I personally rarely do). It will be a tough sell just on that alone, especially with people who are comfortable with email as it is.
I understand people will be able to run their own Wave servers but unless running a Wave server becomes as common as running an email server, I don’t see it breaking into the mainstream. Every company will need to be running a Wave server and people will need to have access to a Wave account somewhere (whether it be work, membership at a website, or their own personal Wave server) so they can easily stay connected. However, the only way to make that happen is to find a way to differentiate itself enough from email and IM while still appealing to the masses. Once all of that occurs Google Wave will be able to truly achieve mainstream status.
Will it happen? It’s hard to say. Remember that Google will need to compete head on with a lot of companies and services to reach the masses. I really don’t think anything will be replacing email any time soon or even in the next 5 years.
As promised we are giving away 20 Google Wave invites so you can test it out yourself. The first 20 comments will receive the Google Wave invites. Please leave an email address which we can send your invite to. Thanks to @anoxiatech and @easy_way for providing the invites.
Note: the invites will be coming from anoxiatech and easy_way – not from me.