Eight Google Wave Annoyances

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By: Hillel Fuld

I am a big fan of Google. Generally speaking, I like using Google products whether it is Gmail, which is years ahead of its competition, or Picasa, which makes picture management easy and fun, Google has impressed me countless times when it comes to the usability of their services. Google Wave is different. If you have spent any time at all on Twitter or just listening to the online buzz over the last few months, you must have heard Google Wave spoken about, and if you did not, you need to get your hearing checked. Everyone is talking about it.

Before Google Wave was released, everyone thought it was going to be the biggest and most revolutionary online communication tool, and it would replace primitive services like email, IM, and even Twitter. “Those things are so the beginning of 2009”. When it was finally released, the whole invitation system, and the fact that Google only sent it out to 100,000 “lucky” people just caused even more hype, thereby raising the expectation even higher.


Now Apple has shown us that hype and buzz surrounding an expected new product can very easily be translated into dollars and cents, but that is only when the product being talked about, is actually a good one. Google Wave is not, at least not in its current state. It is true that under certain circumstances, it will help solve a lot of problems in the work place. It will fix the whole email mess when it comes to long threads, CCing people in the middle, as well as collaborating over a document.

I must admit, I am pretty sure I am missing something about the way Google Wave works, because to me, it seems almost pointless outside of the work place. I have yet to understand how this will ever replace Twitter or email as a communication tool, and I am therefore convinced that I am indeed missing something.


If I am working under the assumption that Google Wave does in fact bring something to the table, and that it will become a staple to every internet user, the way email has become one, I still believe that the actual UI is extremely annoying and hard to use. So whether or not this thing takes off, the following eight characteristics of the Google Wave interface must be improved:

  • Scroll Bar: This is a classic case of “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”. Have you ever heard any complaints about the standard scroll bar found on internet browsers, Web-based applications, or file explorers? I haven’t. It is therefore completely unclear to me why Google felt a need to change it. They added this fancy shmancy scroll bar that proves that sometimes less is more. I have to believe this new scroll bar adds some sort of benefits to the traditional one, but I have yet to find them. I am not even going to attempt to describe the Google Wave scroll bar, those that have used it, know what I’m talking about, those that have not, will soon, but you can see it in the screen shot below. Sorry Google, not feeling it.


  • Spelling Mistakes: Probably the most talked about feature in Google Wave is the ability to see your contacts typing. I don’t mean like in IM in which the application says that your contact is typing something, in Google Wave, you actually see the person’s words as they are typed. Even with my developed imagination, I cannot see any benefit in this. I can however, see a lot of embarrassment for people in a professional environment. I mean, who does not make spelling mistakes, and use a spell checker before hitting Enter? Now, your contact sees all your mistakes and knows exactly what you got on your first grade spelling test. Why, Google, why? Yes, real time is the cool thing now, but this takes it a little too far.


  • Noise: Even with all the advanced communication tools that we have today such as Twitter, which gives you the ability to carry out conversations with 20 people at once, at the end of the day, you can only read one sentence at a time. With Google Wave, you are looking at an already noisy interface, and watching numerous contacts type in real time, and are expected to carry out multiple conversations simultaneously. Now take into account that I have around 20 Wave contacts, I cannot even imagine the noise level people like Robert Scoble are experiencing when Waving (is that what it’s called?). Gives me a headache even thinking about it…


  • Avatars: I am not sure if anyone has figured this out yet, it seems to be something to do with having a Gmail account, but the Wave avatars are moody. Sometimes they are there, then they are gone. I updated the avatar on my Google profile, it stuck and appeared in Wave, only to discover that it was gone the next day. This seems too basic of a feature to not work. If I am missing something about the way Wave avatars work, feel free to share it in the comments or on Twitter here.


  • Contacts: OK, so if Google Wave is supposed to replace email and other tools, there has to be an easier way to find and add contacts. I am not suggesting an import tool from Facebook or Twitter, that would just be too much to ask, but how about Gmail? I am assuming Google can figure out a way to import contacts from their email service into the service that is supposedly going to replace it. Not practical? How about just the ability to view your email contacts that are on Wave and manually add them one by one? No? What about giving easy to remember screen names instead of complicated email addresses? Still nothing? OK, let’s put it this way, anything besides sending out a tweet to ask people who is on Wave and to add me, is a step in the right direction!

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 25 09.43

  • Notifier: Real time communication? How about a built in notifier so I know when someone is talking to me? That is a pretty basic functionality that has been around since I can remember. It exists for IM, it exists for email, but when it comes to what is supposedly the most advanced online communication tool…”A notifier? Na, we can’t do that!” I know there are 3rd party notifiers out there, but this should be a built in feature or at least an add on. C’mon Google, seriously…

google notifier for mac

  • Enter: Once again, have you ever heard of anyone complaining that hitting Enter to send an IM does not work for them? Me  neither. So why Google decided Enter as a form of confirmation that you want your message sent will not be a part of Google Wave is beyond me. Having to press Done every time I want to send a message in Wave to me is a deal breaker. It is just pure annoying and the worst part, it is completely unnecessary.  I have painted a whole picture of the day that the Wave team decided to leave out this basic functionality, and it involves a lot of alcohol. That is the only explanation I could come up with. Any other ideas?


  • General Bugs: Now I know the version of Wave I am using is a very initial one, and that a lot of the bugs were expected and will be solved in the near future, but my impression of Google is that even their beta products such as Gmail, when it was released, are a lot better than this. Wave is full of bugs, whether it is telling me I have new messages when I don’t, or the fact that it takes you 5 minutes to find what message is in fact new and unread, or whether it is the playback feature, which fails more often than not, I would expect more from Google.


In conclusion, I do see some potential for Google Wave in the corporate structure, and it might very well replace email as a collaboration tool, when it comes to document editing and other such tasks, but in its current state, and unless Google makes some drastic changes, I am pretty sure the hype will disappear as fast as it appeared.

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Hillel Fuld is a global speaker, entrepreneur, journalist, vlogger, and leading startup advisor. He brings over a decade of marketing experience with leading Israeli and Silicon Valley startups, and currently collaborates with many global brands in an official marketing capacity including Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Huawei, and others.      Hillel covers the dynamic local tech scene for many leading publications including Entrepreneur magazine, Inc, TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more.    Hillel has been named Israel’s top marketer, 7th top tech blogger worldwide, has been featured on CNBC, Inc, and was dubbed by Forbes as “The Man Transforming Startup Nation into Scale-up Nation”.       Hillel has hundreds of thousands of followers across the social web and can be found on Twitter at @Hilzfuld. You can learn more about him on his website: www.hilzfuld.com


31 thoughts on “Eight Google Wave Annoyances

  1. Mate, this thing is still in preview, for Christ’s sake!

    Hang on; everyone knows about these gripes. Many of us convey the above ideas to the developers as areas for improvements…

    There’s no need to whine on a blog!

  2. BTW, if you want to directly send a message, you can pres Shift + Enter, and, it’ll be sent!!! I know it breaks the traditional way of communication of just pressing Enter….

  3. The scroll bar is the most annoying thing of all the wave layout.I reall don’t know what google intended with it anyway.Btw even i din’t find the use of typos being realtime,but on the contrary,only that is something new in wave.If you take a good look,Wave resembles gmail in all other features ! 🙂

  4. Google wave is still in an early stage. It will be developed and improved more and more. Why you people don’t understand that?

    BTW, Scrollbars in google wave are the most brilliant and useful piece of work I have ever seen

  5. For fynali, Serkan and all those who are ditching the relevant negative observations of Google Wave users:

    “Google wave is still in an early stage. It will be developed and improved more and more. Why you people don’t understand that?”

    If it’s in a stage so early that it’s barely useful or functional, why go public with it? I don’t buy into this “beta” nonsense – once your product is out (ie people can use it), people will say what they think of it.

    Let me ask you something: if “Wave” wasn’t Google’s, would you still play the defendant’s attorney? if Google Wave was “Zig Wave”, would you welcome it as it is right now?

    “Mate, this thing is still in preview, for Christ’s sake!

    Hang on; everyone knows about these gripes. Many of us convey the above ideas to the developers as areas for improvements…

    There’s no need to whine on a blog!”

    Saying that Google Wave is still in preview is like saying “it’s okay if Gmail blows as long as it’s Beta”..give me a break.


  6. I agree with some of your comments completely, your Spelling mistakes point is just a mild problem and could improve peoples spelling overall, it will make people think about what they are typing before they actually type it.
    Your own comment box’s don’t send the comment when you press enter, the enter key is reserved for new lines.

    As every one else has said it is early days for Google Wave a notifier will no doubt be on the cards and I’m sure they are listening to what people are saying.

    I hope everyone gets to use it that way we may just about sees Googles vision for Wave.

  7. As the others have already said, it’s still in Beta, but not just in the style of GMail, Flickr and all the other Web 2.0 Betas, it’s early invite-only beta, so this is really the time they pick up on this stuff. It seems like you’re assuming development is complete. I should certainly expect it isn’t.

    Also, it’s an open protocol with an API, so like Twitter, developers are going to be able to make apps running on Wave that do whatever the market demands, including notifications. As a browser-based web app, you can’t really get notifications. That requires a desktop run-time (or mobile app, or whatever), the same as Google made for GMail (years later) .

    Like Gareth said about the Enter key, I would say the model is more like email than IM. Pressing Enter gives you a new line in an email, no-one expects it to send the email immediately. In any case, it will take a bit of getting used to for some people.

    With the spelling, if I recall the launch video correctly, you will be able to turn off the realtime display of your writing once they set up the settings panel I assume.

    I don’t personally see it replacing Twitter, I don’t think that’s its intended purpose at all, but I do see it as an improved form of Email.

  8. Another thing that disappoints me about Google Wave is that I thought it was going to be fun to use. I’d be able to hook up with a lot of people and have conversations. At least for me, the beta has been way too limited. I just don’t know enough people on it to make it worth wild actually be useful.

    I don’t think that Twitter has anything to worry about.

  9. OMFG. Google wave is NOT beta are you too dumb to understand that? It’s clearly sayd “preview” in the left right corner? Have you seen “beta” anywhere? And when last time I looked it was limited preview. So, invitations where send to the people who checked the “I’ll report bugs” radiobutton in submission form. Doesn’t such a question comes as hint to you that you should expect bugs? Knock, knock – anybody in there?

  10. I’m not a Google Wave user yet – *ahem Hillel* – but I think that this is definitely the stage to discuss gripes. The people who were lucky enough to receive invites, were given them so they could provide Google with the feedback they need to improve upon Wave.

    I’m pretty sure they’ve thought of the large majority of the issues, but didn’t think they were critical to stall the launch.

    Other than that – I definitely think having a sort of “Skype”-like typing, where you can see when someone is typing, and even when they’ve deleted, but not necessarily what they’re typing, is definitely a better option. If someone chooses to delete what they wrote – that means they didn’t want you to read it in the first place. It really makes people have to be on their guard.

    Besides, I heard that can be disabled, no?

  11. “Have you ever heard of anyone complaining that hitting Enter
    to send an IM does not work for them?”

    So here’s the thing: Wave is not IM. Since you can create complex documents in Wave, you need a way to make line breaks. Have you ever heard of anyone complaining that hitting Enter to create line breaks in a word processor does not work for them?

    To finish the message, you can hit shift-enter instead of clicking Done.

  12. Yeah, Wave right now isn’t “beta,” it’s more of an “advanced alpha.” There are a LOT of wires hanging out. They’ve repeatedly said that they opened this up, first to developers and then to select members of the public, to test the concept in the real world with real users. Nobody can break an application faster than a real-world user, and they’d rather find those flaws now rather than down the road when things are more set and harder to change.

    Not that people shouldn’t complain about problems; they should just bear in mind that what they see now is the blunt piece of metal before it’s honed to a fine edge. It’s the users’ job to hammer it out.

  13. there is a firefox addon which shows if any new activity has happened in G wave… that does help with its usability.. and the green dot near the profil pic that was added quite recently.

    Both the above features malfunction tho.

  14. Hey man,

    I was right there with you. There are even things you didn’t mention that are wrong with the product right now, like the fact that any wave ~150 blips long starts to lag like you’re on a 56k modem.

    The writing was good, but then I think you got a bit sloppy.

    For one thing, you really need to understand that this is NOT a beta. This is a preview. This is more like an ALPHA. That is why it is so hard to get an invite presently.

    Shift-Enter sends. This is not at all unreasonable. Hitting enter sends an instant message but it doesn’t send an e-mail. You don’t find this to be a flaw with e-mail. In e-mail, as with wave, you need an easy way to add a carriage return. The way they have it set up makes it ’email like.’ No learning curve, because someone used to e-mail will hit submit to send and hit enter to go to a new line just like they expect from e-mail. The more tech savvy will use shift+enter. If they had flipped this functionality it would have left older e-mail users unaware of any way to add a carriage return to their message.

    You had a bunch of valid points but I think you got greedy.

  15. If you are using Chrome as a browser, you can get an extension which turns the scroll bars back to the usual type.

    Wave is, as others have pointed out, an alpha release. Part of the reason for the early release is so that people can test and, more importantly, start developing protocols for using it which will deal with the “noise” and management tools for handling things like contacts, alerts, and other areas where it is currently deficient. These will no doubt include tools that will turn off the ability for others to see you typing.

    Also, remember that there is really only one server/client for Wave at the moment – the Google one. Others will be developed which will have more/different features. In fact, there is already an alpha of a python based server available. It’s very, very basic though.

  16. Brilliant post.
    Some are fixed by now (i.e. contacts).
    And yes, I also believe scrollbars in google wave are an usability mistake.

  17. PEOPLE PEOPLE PLEASE! This is a VERY early version of wave. I still can’t add images etc into mine! When this hits the ground with public access and fully fledged features for all, the difference will be awesome. A lot of your complaints have already been answered, but I will say this. On Google’s demo of wave, I’m pretty sure they had the feature to type where no one can watch you doing so, it just hasn’t been released yet. Be patient! In response to your ‘Enter’ annoyance, someone has already said shift and enter I think it was…also, for Gmail you can use custom keyboard shortcuts, I’m sure it won’t be long before a similar feature is introduced to wave.

    I think a great way, and probably the intended way to use wave, isn’t simply to randomly talk to people, but for each wave to have a specific subject. For example, a group of lets say 5 friends and family could start up a wave with their christmas lists at the top. We have surely all felt the pain of sending b’day/christmas lists via email only to remember that there was something else you wanted to add or edit at a later date etc etc. By using wave, whenever you open it, everyone’s list is at the top, and they can edit them at will, so you are always getting the up to date list. You can then chat about what’s on the lists below, or on a separate wave.

    Conclusion –
    Wave is extremely promising, but we must remember it’s in it’s infancy. The bells and whistles won’t come for a little while. There are a few things Google must address however, one major thing is the need for a more formal/business format to a wave. This is a must if it is to be used professionally. I’m sure Google have already realised this and are on the case. Almost all other things mentioned above are simple add-ons for Google to give us later.

  18. Googlewave is a real collaboration tool for any grouping of people, two or more. I like it. A lot. In fact, I’m already collaborating with several different groups, and the difference is… it’s in real-time. So no, it’s not just corporate. That it is buggy and missing features, yea, t’is true.

  19. I dont get you. I dont see these as annoyances.
    For me the biggest annoyances are the invite thing, my friends arent geeks, so how long am i supposed to wait before being able to use wave for anything useful in real life?
    Also I didnt like Dr. Wave, and the error message which goes something like “Everything shiny capt, but we need to refresh. Do you want to tell Dr. Wave what happened?”
    WTF is that?
    About the enter, Enter is often used for a newline, so i actually like having a done button, it keeps me from inadvertently sending one-liners.
    The other things you listed are minor in my opinion. It is nice to see real time, it just feels nice to see the other person typing, although i agree maybe users should have the choice to turn it off, just like gmail users should have the choice to turn off threads, or have multiple view options.
    I also have something to say about avatars. Although I have one and it is a cam shot of me picking my nose ( 😀 ), I do not like them, mostly because people put up their own photo. I prefer not seing these people and remember that they really exist somewhere, and not as 60×60 gif images.
    The scrollbar is uh… interesting, lol.
    As for the whole google wave thing, if it is what email would be had it be invented today, then expect it to be just that: a failure! I mean who would use email if it was invented today 🙂 the only reasons people use it is because it has been around as a basic means of communications, but nowadays there are better ways to communicate.

  20. Rolf (nice name
    mostly you said what I was going to say till I read that

    One thing I think you got wrong is in the developer preview it showed a feature allowing you to send messages in non real time, But I don’t think it was activated yet. GUYS THIS IS A BETA THEY SAID THERE WERE HOLES AND TO GET AN ACCOUNT YOU PROBABLY HAD TO SAY YOU WERE OK WITH REPORTING BUGS OR GOT AN INVITE FROM SOMEONE WHO SAID THAT


  21. Hey, people against Google Wave! Are you envy or something?
    I agree that Noise and Contacts are to be improved, they are also my concern, here I agree. But the rest is not relevant:
    – scroll bar is very helpful. I knew in seconds what is the point here.
    – spelling mistakes – use Draft checkbox
    – avatars – come on, it’s preview
    – notifier – already exists
    – Enter – are are serious?
    – General Bugs – oh, boy, you are simply envy!
    I got an invitation, try it with friends and family (some of them could invite another 8 persons) and I tell you – this tool is awesome.

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