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Google pulls plug on Google Wave

The search giant says the real-time collaboration tool saw less use than the company had hoped. The company will aim to use technology in other products.

Google Wave logo

Google is waving good-bye to Wave.

The company said on its blog on Wednesday that it is halting development on Google Wave, a real-time collaboration tool aiming to combine various forms of online communication.

"Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked," Senior Vice President Urs Holzle said in the blog post. "We don't plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site, at least through the end of the year, and extend the technology for use in other Google projects."

Google debuted Wave in June 2009 to much attention, but there was much debate over what, exactly, the tool would be used for.

Even the product's own developers seemed unclear. "It takes a little getting used to," Wave's software-engineering manager, Lars Rasmussen, told CNET around the time of its launch. "We're still learning how to use it."

Wave's primary feature was to let users collaborate in real time, using an in-box-like interface that resembled a mix of Google's Gmail Web mail service, and its Docs and Spreadsheets product. Each strand of messages, which could include text, links, and photos, was called a wave. Google launched the product with an API for developers to build extra functionality in the form of extensions that users could turn on and off.

Wave remained in private beta for most of its existence. Two months after its announcement at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Google allowed a group of 6,000 developers in. Two months after that, it began letting in some 100,000 users for testing. The service fully opened to the public in early March of this year, taking a spot in the company's Web-based office suite.

Part of the Wave's demise could arguably be pinned on Buzz, a similarly social product that Google launched within its Gmail Web e-mail service. While Wave was pitched mainly as a collaboration and productivity tool for small groups, Buzz was for entertainment and communication with friends. It stole some of the limelight in offering a place for users to view and interact with photos, links, and conversations. Users could do the same thing back on Wave, but it wasn't tied into an already immensely popular product.

Google Wave
Google Wave circa September 2009, when Google opened the doors to some 100,000 users. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Wave joins a host of other short-lived Google products. At the beginning of 2009, the company cleaned house,shutting down Dodgeball, Jaiku, Notebook, and its video service. Shortly before that it had shut down Lively, a 3D chat service it had acquired in mid-2008, and hoped to turn into a Web-based Second Life competitor. There was Hello, a photo-sharing service Google picked up as part of its Picasa acquisition, and Google Answers--a questions and answers service where question askers could pay to have a question answered by Internet researchers. Google shuttered Answers in late 2006.

Moving forward, the end of Wave could just be a sign that Google is serious about focusing its social efforts on more widely understood products like Google Apps, Buzz, and gaming. Recent financial moves, including a reported $100 million investment in social-gaming company Zynga, and a rumored $182 million acquisition of social photo-sharing service Slide, certainly point the company's momentum in that direction.