It's no small question (and the five Ws look kind of cool). Was it marketing? Timing? Did Google shoot themselves in the foot by leaving 'beta' tags on Gmail well after it was a perfectly formed product... so that no one was ready to accept a beta was really a beta? And, with our the Lifehacker Techlines event next week (you can still nab a seat if you leave insightful comments) tackling the topic of the future of communications, what does the demise of Google Wave say about what users are looking for?
For a very insightful look at what went wrong, check out Gina Trapani's piece over at Lifehacker. (She wrote a book on using Wave, so she knows the product very well.)
I liked what Google Wave had to offer. But one thing that struck me early on was that there was so much confusion around what the service would actually be good for. Confusion that led to single Waves with hundreds of participants, and no one quite sure what they were trying to do. I spent some time really focusing on what Wave would do when used as an email alternative, and it had some great ideas in its integration of bots and other live web tools.
But the horse had bolted. People taste tested, got very confused, and walked away. Email was 'good enough'. And it is simple. It might get overloaded now and then, but you read it one message at a time.