Google Wave Caveat Emptor

My last post here was all about how software vendors and online franchises can integrate with Google Wave in their web applications. This previous blog entry wrote up the research results from our participation in the semi-private beta of Wave which is what Google called the sandbox. We have also planned a new release of Code Roller that integrates with Google Wave.

As a prelude to this new release of Code Roller, we deployed a new release of Cogenuity that integrates with Google Wave. This time, the integration was with what Google calls the preview which is different than the sandbox. In the sandbox edition, you are by yourself and are just testing the basic functionality. In the preview edition of Google Wave, you can truly collaborate with others.

For the purposes of clarifying a common misconception about this preview edition, permit me a momentary aside. There has been much buzz in the blogosphere about Google Wave invites. At the end of September, Google sent out 100,000 invitations to the preview edition. Each of those invitees got to nominate 8 other people. The popular press has blurred the original invitations with this nomination process. There is no guarantee that someone who has been nominated will get an invitation; however, all of the people that I nominated did eventually receive invitations. You just have to be patient.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The Cogenuity integration with Google Wave preview edition revealed some subtle yet potentially frustrating gotchas or difficulties in the end user experience. Cogenuity is a collective social intelligence platform where groups of contenders proffer solutions to a challenge issued by a promoter. While using Cogenuity with certain browsers and operating systems, access to the  embedded wave would be inappropriately denied. I suspect that the problem was in the subtle differences that the various web browsers implement cookies.

There is a long history in the web where browser vendors release a web oriented technology whose best end user experience occurs in their own web browser. Microsoft Internet Explorer had its ActiveX. Mozilla Firefox had its XUL. I have no idea if this is Google’s intention but, for right now, Google Wave works best in their own Chrome browser. It doesn’t work at all in Internet Explorer and your results may vary when using either FireFox or Safari. Is Google intending to leverage Wave in order to increase the market share for Chrome? Perhaps it is unfair for me to hold Google accountable for web browsers that they are not responsible for.

I recently read a pretty interesting piece entitled Google Enterprise Strategy Starts with Google Wave which is about how Google is going to go after the enterprise market in 2010. I have always believed that Wave is targeting enterprise collaboration much more than consumers. The more popular media seems to confuse these two markets but I see them as quite distinct even though the same people are in both.

There is one thing that both enterprise knowledge workers and entertainment seeking consumers do have in common. They both demand an IJW UX or It Just Works User eXperience. People don’t want to break their flow in order to tweak the options of their browser or to download and install a complicated plugin. Such complex and technical procedures could result in a lot of abandonment.

Google Wave has a lot of potential and holds a lot of promise for enterprise collaboration. It remains to be seen whether or not they can deliver on this promise or stay focused on the task of delivering solid value for the enterprise while avoiding the sirens of web browser market share.

  • cbemerine

    About your quote: “There is one thing that both enterprise knowledge workers and entertainment seeking consumers do have in common. They both demand an IJW UX or It Just Works User eXperience. People don’t want to break their flow I…“

    I wish this was true, but it is not. If it was true, institutional and government users of Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer (IE) would have switched long ago when Microsoft ignored W3C standards setting bodies. First they put people on those bodies attempting to influence the standards for their own benefit and when that failed, simply did it their own way anyway. End user be darned.

    You have to admit it took some, IMO wrongly placed, guts to simply change the Word data format so that newer versions of Word would not read old versions of .doc files without converting the data file first. And to add insult to injury, they would allow you to convert from other Word Processors to Word format, but heaven help you if you need to go from Word to another Word Processor (Word Perfect) or other software application. Good luck with that. If you were one of the many workers converting old .doc formatted documents to the new doc format of-the-day, you were not a happy camper. And if you were the manager who was having to take money out of your dwindling IT budget to convert data files you were not happy either. Did those institutions churn away from Word for the violation of their TRUST? Nope, they stayed the course.

    So many other examples, H.264 video codecs; IE version 6.0; Plugins, Flash (okay if you are a Windows user, not always okay if you use Unix, Macintosh or Linux). Blue Screens Of Death (BSOD) of yesteryear (DOS/Windows and Win 95/98 era) and blacK Screens Of Death (KSOD) of last month. Eerily familiar those…

    We end users (and enterprise knowledge workers) might not like it when our flow is broken but it happens more often then it should, like it or not. Did you switch away from the product that interrupted your flow? Many of us did, more did not. Thus silent approval was given to the various companies that they could do this to them, again, and again and again and you would simply put up with it, after all you did the last time, didn’t you. Certainly not because it saves you time or money.

    I wish end users would demand “an IJW UX or It Just Works User eXperience” but based on the examples I just supplied, most do not, at least not yet. Some us do, we switch to Linux or Macintosh OSX, however many still do not demand excellence.

    Until a vendor sees massive churn for a violation of trust, nothing will change. At least not until they become a minority vendor again and are forced to provide customer service and innovation to regain market share. Perhaps then.