Google Wave is considered one of Google’s big failures today. It was bloated, had a crowded UI, suffered from feature creep, and, while it was online, it was pretty useless, since nobody was on it and it was hard to get invited.
And yet, if Google gave it a proper overhaul — drastically simplified, removed the UI oddities, and properly split Wave’s different aspects into several pages, it could have been the next communication platform. It’s open-source, decentralized, and includes enough features to meet a number of communication needs.
Did you know that the Google Wave founder left Google for Facebook? A little while later, Facebook Messages, a blend of chat and e-mail, appeared. It did essentially the same thing as Google Wave, except all the complexity was taken out and focus was put on one thing — simple person-to-person communication. And it was a huge success.
Due to its decentralized nature, Google Wave could have made “messages” universal. Messages would sooner or later become a communication standard, outplacing e-mail and making closed communication platforms like Facebook Messages or Apple’s iMessage irrelevant, since it’s just superior technology to e-mail. And for those still clinging to their e-mail accounts, messages could be sent as e-mails and vice versa.
One of the most important features of Wave was the “embedded wave” — a wave websites could bundle as their comment field or a feedback box. Imagine having a decentralized, open-source alternative to Disqus, Livefyre, etc. that you don’t even have to create a special account for. Even better — you get replies to the comments you’ve made anywhere on the internet under your account right on your Wave client, hopefully fit and snugly within its own special section instead of intermingled with your serious messages.
If Google+ was decentralized, it would rock so much more than it currently does. And an easy way to decentralize it would be to simply take Google Wave and tweak it a little. You’d no longer have to choose between having a closed, restrictive social network with your friends and your grandma on it (Facebook, Google+) and an open, decentralized network with few people and little activity (Diaspora).
Since you’d have all your communication tied to one place and one wave account (whatever wave provider you chose to go with), you’d only need to manage a single set of contacts. That would make sharing/privacy settings so much simpler. Not only that — if done correctly, it would open other services to these settings. So, for example, you could tell Ubuntu One that you’d like to share your files only with people from your “Work” circle even though Google would actually host your contacts.
Now that we’d have a single decentralized communication and contact system, the rest follows. The user would be in control of his data on the net. He wouldn’t be forced to use his real name, he wouldn’t be tied to a single host, he wouldn’t be coaxed into having a public profile, and he could have as many accounts as he’d like.
How does this help Google?
It helps the open web. Frankly, right now, Google could care less who hosts the communication platform. It’s not making any money on Google+ — it doesn’t even have advertising on it yet. All it’s doing is trying to divert people from Facebook, which is becoming the new way people discover things, the new place where people spend time, and is eating at Google’s business. And Google is still the biggest online advertising provider, so it’s likely that a number of wave hosts would put Google’s ads on their sites to make money.