Once upon a time, Google Wave was the next big thing. I had high hopes for it’s use in news – but it was not to be.

Google announced Wednesday that it will stop development on the Wave project, citing a lack of user adoption. They will leave the site up through the end of the year, but probably not long after.

What went wrong? Simple: Wave started out buggy, slow and difficult to understandand it never got better. It also never really seemed to find it’s place in the daily rituals of regular people – which was a critical problem.

Lance Ulanoff at PC Magazine has a great piece about what went wrong with Wave. In short: It’s one thing for developers to love and use this product – for it to really succeed, it had to be adopted by some regular people.

On a personal level, I used Wave for a couple of months – but I always had to think, “Oh, I think I’ll go check Wave.” It didn’t make it’s way into my routines, it didn’t show up in my Gmail and it didn’t become part of my life. We forgot one another. I imagine this was the case for many people.

Even with Wave’s demise, Google certainly isn’t down or out in the world of social networking – nor should they be. Several tech watchers noted Google’s allusions to Wave-like features showing up in future projects – possibly indicating the development of Google’s rumored social networking site Google Me, which would take on Facebook head-on.

Mashable‘s Pete Cashmore is dubious about Google’s future in the social arena. He notes:

As Facebook builds a user base of more than 500 million people, it also stockpiles the personal information required to provide more comprehensive ad targeting — and a more personalized search engine — than Google could ever hope to engineer through algorithms alone.

Google Me seems to be growing past mere rumor and speculation at this point with the mercy-killing of Wave and several key acquisitions. Social media fans and developers are keeping a close eye on this project – and wondering if this time Google will have the right recipe to take their piece of the social media pie.