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Building stuff at Google’s scale

Here’s the difference between what a company like Google can do and what most can do. Google Wave was the big news yesterday, but it’s not exactly a new effort. It’s been in the works since 2007:

Lars had already moved to Sydney, and made the case that Wave could best be created there, where the team could operate as a kind of independent startup. Jens moved over, and they built the first prototype over nine months with a team of five, during 2007. Since then, the team has grown to about 100.

Not many companies can afford to dedicate 100 highly paid people to what is essentially a completely speculative effort. Google has almost certainly invested more resources in Wave than Twitter has utilized over its life, and Twitter has millions of current users.

It’ll be interesting to see how Wave does once the demos are over and real people start using it. Google Wave’s evolution clearly runs counter to the “release early and often” culture that pervades Web development these days and I’ll be interested to see whether it works out well.

3 Comments

  1. wrt: “release early and often”. Sounds like kind of an early release to me; stuff broken in the demo, a couple of “eventually we’ll do XYZ”. The “often”, we’ll have to see.

    Someone else has written about this before, but there’s definitely a tension regarding when to put your first release of something out in the public eye. On the one hand, you want to get people interested, and you want to beat your competitor to the market. On the other hand, you want to allow the development team to not be pestered by folks asking a bazillion questions, you want to iron out how well the thing actually works in practice, etc, etc. It can hard to figure out the optimal time to do the first release.

    But this is pretty standard for Google, no? gMail, gReader, etc all went out, first release, pretty functional?

  2. More people hours then Flickr over its life as well. Resources would be harder to calculate

  3. I think the scary lesson for Google’s competitors is that even if Wave never changes anything, Google has lots of other projects like this. Only a tiny fraction have to be successful to keep Google in business and ahead of the pack.

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