When I first saw Google Wave, it was like experiencing a messiah. For a web/tech geek, @larsras‘ and @twephanie‘s 80+ min demo was a spiritual affair that I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life [in software]. I even spread the love on this blog.
After Google I/O (where Google Wave had it’s coming out party), I got a chance to kick the tires in the Google Wave sandbox. Boy was that rough — it should have been called a “wave pool” instead of a sandbox. The product was unusable after 5-10 minutes of use. With that said, I was cool with it because the Google engineers behind it are rock stars and it’ll get cleaned up… and hell, it was basically alphaware.
Fast forward to last week when Google opened up Wave to ~100k users. I thought great… it’s almost ready and most issues should be ironed out by now. Hmmm… after using it for a week, I’d say it’s got a long way to go. Yes, most of the bugs I’ve seen in the past are gone. However, there are still several things that make this product very unusable as an email alternative. First of all, whenever I use it, it spikes my browser’s memory usage by about 300-500mb on top of what was already there. So, it’s not unlikely to have Safari or Chrome (on OS X Snow Leopard) consuming ~1gb of memory. After using Google Wave, I had to cycle my browser just to free up the memory. Ok… so the browsers have to improve because of Google Wave… that’s a good thing. Nothing pushes innovation faster than an innovative product that relies on it, right?
Aside from technical issues, Google Wave’s largest hurdle is to convince people that this platform really is better. I get that Google released Wave to hackers early to crowdsource the innovation that could help propel its use. However, it’s going to be a while before most common folks really “get it.” It’s also going to require some innovative applications (extensions, robots, etc) and use patterns to push it forward. Right now, the general consensus among my circle of wave friends is that they “don’t get it.”
With that said, I’m confident that Google will pull it off. Not very many companies can do it, but they can. Everything gets reinvented at some point and email is a prime target. So, I’m sure that in another few months, my current feelings toward Wave will be different. In the meantime, if you happen to get a Wave invite, send me a wave.