Time to *wave* goodbye. Photo courtesy of Flickr user liako. Licensed under Google is an obvious cultural force in our society. From its image search being immortalized in Chiddy Bang’s hip-hop top 40 hit “The Opposite of Adults” (“google me, the images”), its mail service joining the most popular free options, and the controversy surrounding Google Books and Google Maps’ Street View has propelled both of those services into the spotlight. Not to mention a little thing called YouTube.

Unlike YouTube, one of Google’s latest services didn’t get the red carpet treatment or many views. Google Wave, Google’s web-based collaboration tool, heralded as Web 3.0, has bit the dust.

Google’s decision to drop Wave isn’t incredibly surprising, although their decision to open registration only two months ago came across as a vote of confidence. Unfortunately, Google Wave’s closing at the end of the year is more of a loss to students – especially in higher education – than nearly anyone else.

Why’s that, you ask? Google Wave had the attributes most appealing to students: accessibility, ease of use, bleeding-edge technology, and a low price tag.

  • Accessibility: This wasn’t a high point of Google Wave for a while – it required an invite from an existing user (a task that got gradually easier as more invites were released), but once registration opened, it allowed any user with a Google account (anyone on Gmail, YouTube, Blogger, or Reader, for example) to use its services. Can’t get much more accessible than that.
  • Ease of Use: Just type, add friends, and go. Some of the bleeding-edge technology I’ll elaborate on next could be used to complicate this but for the everyday user, Google made the interface simple to use. Presuming you had friends on Wave, that is.
  • Bleeding-Edge Technology: Google Wave allowed users to see when others in their Wave (conversation thread) were typing in real-time, and saved nearly instantaneously. Not only is this enough to severely creep out a drunk student that their computer is possessed, but it’s also a sign of the future of the web. Entire conversations were also fully edible or lockable, which added in a trust aspect to Wave. If a malicious user was in the Wave, your remarks could be edited – no questions asked.
  • Low Price Tag: The best things in life are free. Like nearly all Google services, Wave was free of charge.


So, now that it’s basically gone at the end of the year, what should students do? It truly depends on the method of communication. The most affordable method is still e-mail conversations, text messages, Facebook chat messages, and instant messages. If files are involved and they’re too big for an e-mail attachment, check out Dropbox’s “Shared Folders” feature.

Google Wave reminded me of an early Twitter – both services had a serious mission, but the urge to play around and experiment led users to desert that mission for editing their friends’ messages and creating fake accounts, for example. Google Wave could truly have been the next version of the Web (using HTML5) if Google decided to devote more resources and more attention to it.