Following Google’s announcement that Google Wave would shut down at the end of this year, they have changed tack slightly and now announced Wave In a Box. They have open sourced some of the code and the intention is to get developers to include the Google Wave features via an API. The orignal Google Wave was deemed a failure, as in spite of wide promotion, few people took up the product. This, however, is simply an indication of Google’s general problem entering into social media.
The problem is this: Google are basically a search company NOT a social media company. They do search brilliantly: web search, map search, image search, paid search. Even YouTube is fundamentally a search engine for video. In fact, their own Google Video never took off and it was the acquisition of an existing successful site that saw YouTube become the second largest search engine.
On the other hand, their entry into social media has largely been a failure: Google Wave, Google Buzz (does anyone actually use it?). I think that Latitude was a good concept, but it was immediately met with privacy concerns and never took off. I blogged at the time that Latitude had potential if they opened up an API for it. They have finally done that, but not before new upstarts like Foursquare and Gowalla claimed the location social media space. And they had APIs from the word go.
So, it doesn’t take a genius to see that Google are successful when they stick to search and unsuccessful when they try social media. And Google are a very bright bunch of people, so I’m sure they also know that. So why do they persevere? From Google’s perspective, why not? Afterall they make gazillions of dollars from their advertising so they can happily put out applications and projects to see if any of them take off. Not only that but Google empolyees are developing side projects all the time, so if someone’s got a good idea, why shouldn’t they put it out there?
All credit to Google for sticking with social media, but in the end it will be simply a niche against what they really do well. Search.