Anil Dash Floated by on a Wave

Remembering some old tech

A really amazing app launched in 2003. It was called Hydra and it let you write code, in real time, with other people. Our minds were blown.

This feature isn’t novel anymore. This is how Google Docs, Figma, Miro, and tons of other web-based collaboration tools work. But there was a time where the idea was brand new and all of my nerd friends were smitten by it. It wasn’t just a glimpse of the future, it was clear that real-time collaboration was a feature that everyday people would use one day.

Over five years later, Google announced a new product called Google Wave. It looked like this and good luck figuring out what it does.

Google Wave was attempting to blend instant messaging and email into some sort of new, better product. There was a lot of excitement and speculation about exactly what it would do, and how it would feel to use. It was hard to get an invitation to the service, but I eventually did. And the one thing I remember, other than being perplexed and unimpressed, was seeing a confused Anil Dash float by on one of the Waves. I posted an item, he responded in real-time, and whoosh, the page shifted again and I gave up.

The whole Google Wave experience was overwhelming and confusing and hard to imagine being used by people in the mainstream. But there was something memorable about the interface showing me a real human who was just as discombobulated as me. It felt like catching the eye of someone on a subway car and making a face like “Get a load of this craziness.” It felt human.

Now it’s been over a decade since Google Wave failed, surprising no one. All these years out, I can’t remember how the features worked, or the visual design, or the marketing. But I do remember when Anil Dash tumbled by. Because it was the only part of the experience that I could relate to.

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.