Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt has announced that the company is pulling the plug on its online collaboration tool Google Wave a year after it made its debut and created a tsunami of interest with invitations to participate in the early programme being sold on eBay!

Schmidt told TechCrunch: “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.”

It’s difficult to pin down precisely when Google lost the plot with Wave but I anticipated something was not quite right at Mountain View some time back when I published this post. There was a confusion about identity.

In retrospect Google Wave was doomed from the start. A seriously quirky interface and idiosyncratic user experience with how the whole service ran put it on the back foot. To be honest, I found MSN Messenger offered a more complete and useful “feel.”

Schmidt has intimated that some parts of Wave will be integrated into other Google offerings, namely Gmail and Docs. Now does that ring a warning bell? Remember when the Big G sprang Buzz on us as an open app and the furore that erupted when people found their privacy seriously at risk because Google naively thought we would all want to use Buzz.

Now here’s a novel suggestion Eric. Keep Gmail as an email service pure and simple. Don’t try and turn it into an all singing and dancing multimedia tool. If I wanted something I could collaborate with friends and colleagues, share files, work on documents, have side discussions, etc I’d use Google Wave – oh, crap, I forgot I can’t do that any more!

I sometimes wonder what the work environment at Mountain View is really like. We all know it’s a cool place to work and people can spend a percentage of their time developing other projects apart from their core work. But is it all too insular, too closed off from the real world inhabited by Google’s customers? Does Google use focus groups comprised of real people who don’t have brains the size of small planets to road test new products? Hell, even Apple gets consumer feedback by leaving prototype iPhones in bars!

Wave had phenomenal potential but someone, somewhere in the Googleplex ran out of steam. I guess the next time I collaborate with someone on Google Docs I’ll be able to tune into his webcam and see his dog licking its balls in the background!

In the meantime I have checked and have 18 invitations to Wave – anyone want one and participate in a slice of history before Google throws the switch?