Tuesday, July 5

AirTable, Notion and company have left Google Wave for what it was: ahead of its time that understood the Internet very early

Email is the online service that has evolved the least since its birth. Before it was tied with the Mercadona website, but Juan Roig won that heads up. Since the first mail in 1971 it hardly changed. They have given us more space, they have connected a multitude of platforms to it and they even let us schedule shipments, but essentially it remains the same.

However, in 2006 there were two Danish brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who wondered “what would email be like if it had been invented today”. That pair of children from the country of circular metal box shortbread and silent streets were the ones who had created Google Maps three years earlier, so the purpose was to take it seriously. In May 2009, during a Google I / O, presented their proposal to the world. It was called Google Wave and aspired to master the next generation of online communications and productivity.

Tangential tool

That ambitious project came out green and with haunches. Despite trying to postulate as that generational leap for communications on the Internet, with joint editing of documents in real time, messaging, calls and video calls, etc; It took Google 15 months to announce that it had abandoned the service. The reason, their lack of reception.

At that time it was difficult to see Google Wave and its baroque design – before the era of the smartphone and design responsive, this was what he had— as something that was not a failed product, but his greatest sin was not failing, but understand the internet too early. When users were not yet ready for such a proposal.

More than ten years later Content creation and management platforms are succeeding with a spirit very similar to that of Wave at the time. The most prominent ones can be Notion, AirTable or Coda, which each in its own way are based on the creation of projects and documents that integrate features of word processing, spreadsheets, management tools and databases.

After years in which similar platforms were betting on creating content isolated from each other, this new wave (in English, wave, astute reader) of platforms prioritize group management and creation. Just like Google’s failed experiment.

About Notion, my colleague José García used to say that it is “a Swiss army knife”. A good synthesis. It does not have a specific function that it does very well, such as Trello for collective project management or Bear for note-taking, but a much more tangential route. More versatile. Again, as Wave. Notes, documents, spreadsheets and a kind of database: all at once. What allows you to use it even to create wikis or create lists of tasks linked and associated with specific projects. And also, its updates and news advance at a spectacular rate.

The collective vocation has allowed Notion to achieve a strong community of users who share their projects there and also act as hooks to attract new users. Something very similar to what Google Wave intended with its waves Y blips dynamic.


AirTable interface.

AirTable He has been in the ring longer, but his impact goes a bit further. AirTable elevates traditional databases and spreadsheets with its collaborative cloud capabilities and multiple ways of organizing and viewing information. Not bad, already invoice more than 30 million dollars a year. Coda is a kind of little brother to AirTable more focused on collaborative documents and group productivity.

The case of the employee who programmed periodic bugs in his software to ensure that he always had a job

Microsoft and Google for their part have made their products evolve towards these same environments and approaches, transcending the concept of “suite office automation ”that dominated a few years ago.

Although it has gone down in history as a failure, Wave really is a forerunner

While we continue to wait for the unknown of who will win the race for the ultimate productivity platform, as in the nineties there was for the text editor for the masses, perhaps it does not hurt to remember Google Wave as the one ahead of its time that was. They fully understood the possibilities of productivity and group communications that the Internet offered, but it was still too early.

Messages, conversations, wikis, files, maps, widgets, images, videos, tables … Many of its functions were discreetly migrating to Gmail, others to Google Docs, others to Google Drive and others were transformed to reach the tools that took their witness at a more propitious moment to succeed. Some even reached Google+, but we talked about other falls from grace another day.


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