Let's look at how they launched Wave. Or rather didn't, since it stayed in private beta for most of its life - after playing around with it for a while internally Google let 6,000 developers play with it, then they opened it to 100,000 users for testing before opening the doors in early March this year. Google has done the same thing before - though to be fair rather more successfully with Gmail - by keeping it exclusive it increased the desire factor. The difference however is that Gmail - however good or bad it is (and I quite like it), it's a person-person communication tool. Social networking tools are by their very nature, social. Which means lots of people have to play around with them. They morph and change over time as users start to do different things and they help assist the development of the product. Google doesn't like that, because Google thinks that it knows best. The idea that they might be wrong doesn't really occur to them, and I do actually find it quite shocking that they're pulling Wave quite so early - it's not even been 6 months yet! Rather than say 'look, this isn't working as we thought, what shall we do to change it and improve it?' Google has done what Google always does - closes the door and walks away.
Their failure rate is actually shocking. Orkut is big in Brazil, which is great, but a Facebook competitor it isn't. Remember Google Lively? The little avatar driven chat room experience which didn't do what they wanted it to, so that disappeared. Google Answers was a dismal failure in comparison to the Yahoo! version (because Yahoo! produced a social product, and Google doesn't understand those). Ever used Knol? No, thought not. How about Google Squared, the Google Catalog, or the Web Accelerator? Ever use Google Financial? Google Secure Checkout? How about Dodgeball or Jaiku? Google dumped their Notebook idea. Then there's Google Radio and Print Ads. I can go on and on. Even the products that work well - such as Blogger, didn't start out as Google products. Google bought Blogger and then sat on it for so long without working on it that many people left for other, better services. I'm not even going to go down the 'Librarian Central' con trick route since that'll send my blood pressure through the roof again.
By the law of averages, Google does do good stuff. Google Street View is magnificent (ignoring the whole wi-fi fiasco that goes with it), Google Earth is marvellous, Gmail and Docs are good stable products. Google search is ... well - rubbish. Yes, I know we all use it, and 'google' is a verb, but really - it's a poor product. It's inconsistent, it fails on every level, other engines are doing much more innovative work, it cannot even do basic Boolean properly, the senior engineers *don't care* about that, and the stuff that Google is doing now is playing catch up with the competition - the recent changes to the image results is a direct steal from Bing in just about every way possible. So please don't tell me that Google search is good - because it bloody well isn't, and that's swearing to it.
Does any of this matter? Good point, and one worth raising. You could argue that Google is at least trying out new things to see if they work. Except - they're not exactly that innovative any more. I don't think they've been innovative since about 1999 to be honest. Most of the things that they do are playing catchup. The things that work they bring in from outside. Google is like a four year old child - wandering around the playroom, picking things up, playing with them for a while and then throwing them aside as soon as something more shiney comes along. They don't give things time to mature, so we're never going to know if Google Wave failed because it was a piece of incomprehensible junk that was poorly programmed and put together, or that it failed because it didn't actually fill a need, or that it failed because it wasn't given enough time to find its feet. If Google was any kind of a serious company that did something other than spout purile 'do no evil' mantras it might realise that it should actually do these things properly, y'know - the way that other companies do. Google has too much money and too few brains.
I look at any Google innovation with considerabel skepticism now, and I'm not going to put any work into anything that they produce because they may well can it in a few months, and all that work has gone down the drain. That's the other downside of their breathtaking incompetence - I simply don't trust them an inch, and never will, and I'm far from the only one! That's not only bad news for Google, it's bad news for the entire industry.