Google boss turns Wave demise into success of sorts
'We're watching you - get used to it'
Google boss Eric Schmidt has labelled Wave, which the company just ditched, “a very clever product”.
He was speaking to reporters at the Techonomy conference yesterday, just hours after the Mountain View Chocolate Factory confirmed that it was dumping Wave because no one was tinkering with the minimalist and very shaky real-time collaboration tool.
This reporter presaged Wave’s demise way back in January, so it's hardly surprising to see Google finally ‘fess up that the tool isn't everything the company had hoped it would be.
In a classic PR lesson in face-saving, Schmidt tried to recast Wave’s failure as proof that the world’s largest ad broker was willing to live dangerously.
"Our policy is we try things," he told reporters, according to CNet’s Ina Fried.
"We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new." He then added that even though Wave never gained any interest from Google fans, it remained “a very clever product”. Perhaps it was just ahead of the curve, eh, Eric?
"We liked the [user interface] and we liked a lot of the new features in it [but] didn't get enough traction, so we are taking those technologies and applying them to new technologies that are not announced. We'll get the benefit of Google Wave but it won't be as a separate product."
All of which hints that Google is indeed beavering away at a social networking site that it hopes will unseat Facebook.
Then there’s the company’s privacy-lite, horribly creepy Buzz, which in contrast is here to stay.
"Today Buzz is really an extension of Gmail," said Schmidt, who also claimed the tool now has tens of millions of users.
It’s hard to say how many of those people are in fact unwittingly signed into Buzz, which Google stealthily slotted into Gmail at the start of this year without first testing it as a separate product.
But bolting Buzz directly onto Gmail was always going to give the Web2.0 tool a head start in terms of usage, no matter how many complaints from privacy watchdogs that stacked up in the process.
Grave new world
To underline Google’s stance, Schmidt told the Techonomy audience that society needed to adapt to and accept the level of data that’s now increasingly available online.
"There was five exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003," he said. "But that much information is now created every two days, and the pace is increasing ... People aren't ready for the technology revolution that's going to happen to them."
Rather disturbingly, the Google boss also spoke about looking at messaging and locations using artificial intelligence.
"We can predict where you are going to go," he said.
"Show us 14 photos of yourself and we can identify who you are. You think you don't have 14 photos of yourself on the internet? You've got Facebook photos! People will find it's very useful to have devices that remember what you want to do, because you forgot ... But society isn't ready for questions that will be raised as result of user-generated content."
But to Schmidt at least, “true transparency and no anonymity” is the future.
"In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it." ®