It would be easy to write an “I told you so” post about the demise of Google Wave. Launched with the kind of fanfare that tempts hubris, it was quickly abandoned by even the most fervent of Google-boosters. Scoble, to his credit, was bang on the mark after just a few days.
What I find interesting about the whole saga, though, is the speed with which Google has acted and the implications this has for how the business is being run.
To me, it looks like someone at Google has made a strategic decision: the old mantra was “what’s good for the web is good for Google”. Anything which encouraged people to use the web more was good, and Google would invest in it, even if it had no direct implication for the company’s bottom line. The idea was simply that the more people used the web, the more ads they’d probably see, and the more money Google would make. Attributing that revenue growth directly to Google’s efforts wasn’t all that important.
This attitude spawned a slew of products, few of which could be directly shown to make Google money. And Wave, which notably had no ads attached and no obvious place to put them, was probably the best example of this ethos.
“The answer is as easy as it is counter-intuitive: Tumblr is a New York company and Posterous is a Silicon Valley company.
Or, to put it another way: Posterous is an engineered product, while Tumblr is a designed product.”
This perfectly encapsulates the difference between Apple and Google’s approach to design. At Google, product development is engineer-led, as you can see from the spartan search page, the crazy experiment that is Google Wave.
At Apple, product development is design led. Engineering is beautiful, but it serves the design rather than being pasted on top of the design.
I’m a massive fan of the approach to design and blogging that Tumblr takes. If I was starting to blog today, what I’d start with would look an awful lot more like Tumblr than WordPress.
(Incidentally, if you want to follow me on Tumblr, you can do so here. What I tend to post are shortcuts, small quotes, pictures… the kinds of things which don’t merit a full post here, but which I think are worth drawing attention to because they are interesting, or lovely.)