No to the paradigm, yes to the market

Google Wave logoI felt a bit sad yesterday, when I heard. Google has now pulled the plug on Google Wave. Not because I used it much. In fact I didn’t. I’ve used Google Docs, where I had a lot of my work already, and where I could easily share and (as it turned out) collaboratively develop documents. Even the live typing known from Google Wave made it’s entry into Google Docs.

More than anything shutting down Google Wave seems like a strategical decision, and even one which has been a long way in the coming. Google probably could choose to invest more and develop Google Wave much further, if they chose to do so, even without as large a user base, as ‘they had hoped for’. But they choose not to. In short, in my analysis, Google Apps is where the money is, and by slowly introducing aspects and elements of functionality from Wave into Google Apps, like they’ve done with Google Docs, they get to monetize what they’ve built with wave, scrapping the rest.

But I felt sad because I love the paradigm, that the Google Wave team were spearheading. We need something other than desktop documents, this has long been obvious, ever since wikis came along. We need something other than email, because email has lots and lots of drawbacks and disadvantages despite it’s broad adoption. It is foolish to send back and forth desktop documents and revisions. Google Docs, which basically is MSWord on the web, has now sadly succumbed even further to the WYSIWYG crowd, which makes the loyal user experience slower and more painful, in order to, apparently, please people who are not willing to learn new things and load a lot of fluff, which is basically not needed to ‘just craft documents’.

I agree with all that the Google Wave team said and did. Yet I did not use it very much. Few people I knew used it. It was (too) hard finding information in it, a bit surprising given the fact that it was built by a company based on search and information filtering. I couldn’t delete waves, so I felt my space was too cluttered with half-hearted attempts and crap, which didn’t make me want to come back very often. I couldn’t decide who or precisely how many I wanted to invite to the party. I didn’t feel I had sufficient control over my data. I couldn’t export my waves to something useful I could work with outside of Wave, like a pdf or html-like file. Surprisingly, waves could not even be imported into Google Docs, despite both products being developed by the same company. Wave had awesome filesharing potential, but noone used it for this. Obvious way though to share torrents and other useful bits, but then again, one can do the same with Google Docs. All in all, I never came to use Wave as much as I would have liked.

Still loved the paradigm, though. And we still have wikis, which are still a lot better in many ways than what Wave had to offer. We still have free software. We will see the paradigm through, with or without Google Wave.

[I lost the expanded version of this post in a server-hell-knows-what-happened thing, which caused WordPress to make a freakshow and develop massive swap... The ridiculous thing is, I had refused to save the draft of the piece I had already created in Notepad, thinking it was safely saved as a draft on the server. Seems I was wrong. Never, never, never trust the web 100%. Never never trust your internet connection. Always always always keep backup.

Anyway the piece had seven points about Google Wave and it's problems with defining it's space, re: ownership, private/public sphere, control of & location of data, access to waves, ability to delete waves etc. It was all very interesting at the time of writing but I don't have the inclination to recreate it all right now. I'll rather rant about my data losses. Maybe some other time.]

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GDrive filesharing?

Presently, Kaplak has a need for an internal, simple yet powerful online file sharing utility. We’re talking about simple intranet stuff, but without the complexity of setting up an intranet. We don’t need an intranet. We need to read and save documents and spreadsheets.

We can get it now with Gmail and the Gmail Drive Shell extension by Bjarke Viksøe. As a hack, this extension has some limitations, but it is a great temporary solution. I wondered if we’d be able to search through attachments, but alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

They should do that had an interesting article from two years back discussing the extension of Gmail into an attachments browsing utility, which I roughly translate into a storage & sharing facility for attachments – also known as files. This is essentially a simple filesharing movement building out of Gmail, building on the simple needs of people with free storage on their hands.

It should be obvious the need is there. This is simply the most needed functionality for lots of people and businesses. Forget the Google Apps, Google Groups or Google Sites. We need a GDrive, a simple place to place stuff, where people we work with can get it and upload their stuff too. No profiles, no more social networks or group functionality, we have lots of that – simply storage available for simple filesharing.

I can think of one reason Google won’t move down that alley, and that’s fear of intellectual property problems and the threats of litigation costs etc. The same reason why Google Books never took off, and why most books are not fully readable or available to non-US residents. Why “snippets”?

Well, that ought to leave this window of opportunity open to others, but noone has the power of the Gmail apparatus already in place.

Another reason might be the risk of undermining Google’s own business in intranet and local search for businesses, as well as their Groups and Apps product ranges. But as Google earns most of the company’s revenue from advertising (including ads in Gmail), this should be a small camel to swallow.

Thanks for the tip about GDrive to Anders! (Anders Nicolaisen and Jesper Lund have recently joined the Kaplak Team – a formal introduction will follow shortly :-) )

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