Google Wave reality check: weighing the challenges

We strongly suspect that the challenges will outweigh the rewards, especially in the early days

"Google Wave [is] a highly interactive communication environment," intones the official Wave Extension Design Principles document. "As such, it provides both rewards and challenges to programmers wishing to extend its functionality."

Undoubtedly. But we strongly suspect that the challenges will outweigh the rewards, especially in the early days, as Google tries to get the platform off the ground and into the marketplace. This was underscored by a comment left by a developer on our earlier story, "Selling Google Wave to Joe Q. Public." The reader noted:

"Doing UI for Wave services is clearly not trivial -- not least because of privacy/security considerations that make Wave 'terminals' into their own Social [Cross-Site Request Forgery] hotspots by blending semi-private and private and public data in active threads ..."

Another developer-related challenge that we're keeping an eye on is the number of people who actually know how to code Wave applications -- especially the enterprise-grade mashups that many companies will want to roll out in their organizations to better leverage employee, partner, and customer collaboration. According to a Google Wave Developer Blog entry, more than 27,000 developers have been prototyping applications using the Google Wave API. However, it's not clear how many of them are merely giving the API a spin as opposed to making a serious skills commitment, or how many intend to stick with consumer-focused extensions and applications.

Google is doing many of the right things to build developer interest, ranging from stoking the Wave hype to "exploring plans for a monetizable wave extension store." But, as Apple has discovered in recent months with the iPhone, a widely-supported platform and monetization options can be undermined by perceived poor treatment and competitive marketplace realities. Another issue to consider: Every major social and mobile platform is attempting to attract developers, including Android, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Palm, Yahoo, and a slew of Microsoft products. We have to ask: Are there enough developers to go around? If not, what does this mean for Google Wave?

Sources and research: Google Wave Developer Blog, Google Wave API and discussion forum, Twitter, eWeek.com, cgisecurity.com, TheStandard.com.

E-mail Ian at ian@thestandard.com. Follow Ian on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ilamont. Standard updates and asides are available at twitter.com/the_standard and in our newsletters, and you can join our LinkedIn group.

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