I'm sure most people have heard the news that Google are to cease development on Google Wave, one of their most hyped products, just a year since it's announcement.
..Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.
While I'm sure the investment into Wave has cost Google a bit, this reminds me of a quote I read recently from an interview with Joi Ito:
The good thing is, the cost of failure for open-source is nearly zero. The cost of failure for start-up companies is very small.
The author Clay Shirky talks about this: The cost of failure being low allows you to swing the bat a lot.
Sure, Wave wasn't the success we all thought it would be, but sometimes it's too difficult to live up to the hype. But it's not all waste, and not particularly a failure. I'm sure we'll see a lot of the components that enabled the full Wave concept appear in a lot of the applications we use in the coming years. If anything, this is encouraging for startups and people trying out new products. Players a big as Google can "fail", but there's always a lesson learned to bring forward to the next iteration/venture.