Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Google Wave will never replace email while social networks already did

Almost a year ago Google published their "next big thing": Google Wave. And as an technique enthusiast I was psyched from the first day I saw the presentation video. I pictured all the ways this tool is going to change the world and how awesome everything would be. For those who don't know it, Google Wave is an online chat-collaboration-sharing tool. It was developed by the smart guys who came up with Google Maps. They were basically freaked out the way people use mails today and thought about "what would it look like if we would design mail today?". And that is what they did.

Besides some performance issues and missing feature Google Wave is quiet there, you can use it (drop me a line if you need an invite..!), heck I even use it at work. It is a great collaboration tool. But it won't replace mail. Sure it is still young and the developers said themselves that it will takes ages until it would do so. But standing here today, seeing what it is, I am totally sure: it will never replace email! Google Wave won't replace it for one simple reason: Email already got replaced!

Sure a lot of us still send around mails to customers and colleagues but in private we use social networks (well, and chat) to communicate with our peeps. This diversion is mostly forced by company policies and some people who are afraid of Facebook stealing their stuff, but if we have the choice we rather use Facebook than email. Heck I know some people who only use StudiVZ (german social network for students) to share news with their friends. This doesn't sound unrealistic to anyone. But using Google Wave instead? No one can imagine that.

The reason for that is simple: when the guys at Google thought about their "new email", they thought about technology: What is it people do with mail and how can it be done better? Sharing pictures? Upload them instead of sending a 25mb Zip File, then you could include them directly! Commenting on what others said? Use inline comments at one shared place instead of email-reply. And so on and on and on. They found a technical answer for all those cases and theirs are way better than what email can do today. Still Social Networks took there place. How come? Were they just late? Or is it because their system is that unstable?

No. It is because they got lost in their features. The same way the user is. Or can you imagine sending the line "Hey, wassup buddy?" as a Google Wave? Looks weird no? And the reason for that is simple: Googe Wave was designed as a collaboration tool. But email is much more. Collaboration is big part of it, for sure, but as its root _email is just communication_. And you know what people communicate the most? Useless, random daily-life stuff. Google Wave with all its picture support and video embedding just doesn't feel like the right place for it.

While Social Networks do. The social in social networks means exactly that: human interaction aka communication. It is the basic in Facebook, StudiVZ and mostly twitter. Every other feature like YouTube videos or a picture album are done _on top of that_. It is all possible today and people use it for it, although it might not be as handy as in Google Wave. But because the core of social networking remains communication a sentence as the one mentioned above feels totally right, too. 

In social networks they started with communication and everything else comes on top. While Google Wave focused on the features on top - especially about collaboration - and lost communication on the way. And while the people behind Google Wave will try to fix that (I am not sure if that is still possible though) we will just continue to communicate over Facebook and twitter and create all the missing features on top of it...

Update 13th April 2010: I found a blog article proving with numbers what I said here about Social Networks replacing Email. Quoting Fred Wilsons conclusion: "[...] social networking is the king of communications now. Long live the king."

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