How many engineers does it take to create a Wave?

The age-old question came to mind here at the Google I/O conference, “How many developers does it take to create a great new application?”

It’s easy to say a small team does the best work, but big companies generally have other considerations that can lead to staffing up development projects if not complicating their approval process. There is the installed base or legacy users to consider, for example, as well as competitive and marketing issues (pricing, trendy features, etc.). Google claims to care about none of it, at least in the early stages.

“Moving the Web forward inevitably leads to more Google searches and that’s economically a good thing,” said Vic Gundotra, Google’s VP of engineering, at the Google I/O conference following the debut of [the innovative Google Wave communication service](/software/article.php/3822476/Is+Googles+Wave+the+Write+Stuff.htm).

Those ground rules suited brothers Jens and Lars Rasmussen, the creators of Wave, just fine. “Advertising model? We haven’t thought about that,” said Lars during a press conference Q&A. “The luxury of working at Google is we get to focus on technology and what we can do to make our users happy.

Google's Vic Gundotra, Lars and Gens Rasmussen
Google’s Vic Gundotra, Lars and Jens Rasmussen
Source: David Needle

“After a certain amount of success, then we try and figure out how to make money from it. It was the same thing with Google Maps, a year and a half after release we started with advertising.”

The Rasmussen’s created Google Maps after Google bought its startup, Where 2 Tech, back in 2004.

Brin joked that not everyone at Google could convince him to greenlight a project in Australia and send along a hundred engineers to get it done. Actually, things didn’t move quite that fast or grow that big.

Lars told me that Jens had the original idea for Wave and the two of them and one other Googler started work on it in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Later two others joined from the original Maps team for a total of five who produced the eventual Wave prototype in late 2007.

“The goal was to simulate running a startup within Google. I believe in small teams,” he said.

A year later, as features were added and the system took shape, the Sydney group grew to fifty. About 3,000 Googlers have also been using the system as part of a test phase.

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