Much Ado About Nothing: The Rise And Fall Of HuddleChat

from the harping-on-huddlechat dept

If you've heard of HuddleChat at all, you already know about its demise. Put together by a few Google engineers in their spare time, the web chat application was used to showcase Google's newly-announced App Engine offering. There was just one problem: it was nearly identical to 37Signals' Campfire, a well-known SaaS web chat application. 37Signals gave some petulant quotes to ReadWriteWeb about the situation, and shortly thereafter Google pulled the app down.

As Om Malik has pointed out, this is all a bit ridiculous. AJAX/Comet chat is a fairly simple feature to implement. If my fellow participants in the Web 2.0 economy are counting on earning their keep via a collective conspiracy to make our jobs look harder than they are, we're all in deep, deep trouble. There's additional potential irony here, too, given that 37Signals has been accused of ripping off others' work to create Campfire in the first place.

But while this incident may prove portentous to the long-term prospects of the 37Signals business plan, it's hard to see how it could mean anything for Google. Breathless declarations that "many in the developer community [will] view Google App Engine as a Xerox machine for copycat product developers" are downright laughable. Google's decision to kill HuddleChat makes good PR sense, but it's inconceivable that many cost-conscious, Python-friendly startups would give up on App Engine over this minor blog imbroglio. As in many other respects, Amazon Web Services will likely provide the relevant template for these issues, and so far AWS has wisely avoided getting dragged into policing its users' apps.

Of course there's a lot of speculation that App Engine will include a free offering, and for that reason it may attract more troublesome users than EC2 currently does. But even if Google finds itself obligated to fight more griefers, phishers and spammers than Amazon does, it seems certain that they won't waste their time arbitrating squabbles over who called dibs on which trivial featureset. Sadly, that will remain for the courts to decide.

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Filed Under: appengine, copies, web 2.0, web platform
Companies: google

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  1. identicon
    Tom, 10 Apr 2008 @ 2:48pm

    Hah -- sorry folks, I didn't mean to confuse.

    SaaS = software as a service

    AJAX = asynchronous Javascript and XML; check the link for Comet. Both are techniques for updating browser contents without reloading the page, and both are heavily used by Web 2.0 apps to provide seamless, native application-like experiences.

    Python is an interpreted programming language that is used for scripting and web development; it competes with Ruby and Perl, among other languages. Google is heavily invested in Python, and consequently App Engine is oriented toward its use. Ruby, which is used by 37Signals and many others, has been the hot web language for a while now (despite having serious performance issues). I expect Python programmers to suddenly find themselves in high demand as a result of App Engine.

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