Google: Afraid of looking like a bully?

by Mathew on April 9, 2008 · 8 comments

So after much hullabaloo and rejoicing over the launch of its Amazon-style “cloud computing” service, Google decided to take down the first app build to run on that service, a collaborative workspace called Huddlechat. Why? Apparently some people thought it was a ripoff of Campfire, a collaborative chat-workspace thing from “software as a service” superstars 37signals. Jason Fried of 37signals told Read/Write Web that he was flattered, but said he wondered why Google “stooped so low” as to “basically copy it feature for feature, layout for layout.”

I have to say I’m with Ethank Kaplan of blackrimglasses on this one: He calls the “lynch mobbing” over a few similarities “retarded” (although I think he means “developmentally delayed”). Did Huddlechat look like 37signals’ Campfire? I guess so, from the screenshots. I mean, there’s a group IM chat window on the left, with some navigational stuff on the right. Is that somehow exclusive to 37signals? Seems to me Google Groups looks a lot like that too, and Yahoo Groups for that matter.

It seems obvious that Google took the app down because it didn’t want the bad PR of looking like a bully, like a big, bad company ripping off someone else’s app to promote its new App Engine (especially since the App Engine has been criticized for taking a “lock-in” style approach). But the whole thing seems a little ridiculous to me.

  • http://www.digitalspace.ca/ Mark

    Agreed – Ethan also raises an important question:

    “Maybe its time to evaluate what the inherent value of Campfire really is, if its so easily duplicated as to cause this latest in a series of stupid blog hand waving?”

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Exactly, Mark — I thought the same thing. If it's that simple, how
    could it possibly be considered proprietary in any way? My email apps
    all look the same too, and so do the various IM clients I use, but
    nobody gets upset about that.

  • http://webpoet.wordpress.com Sally Wu

    Matthew, good point. I would also add…

    I do not see why this app would be considered to be bullying when they (Google) have so many other free apps that directly compete with a bunch of other (non-37 signals) companies. What is so special about this particular app??

    Check out my latest post on HuddleChat too, here: http://webpoet.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/huddlec

  • Hannah

    37 Signals' has really hurt their image over recent years. Their whiny response to this was just another step. They started with the great idea of saying “here's how we want to make apps, if you don't like it, use someone else's” to “if you don't agree with us, you're a moron”.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I agree, Hannah — there has been a real shift in tone to a kind of
    “our way or the highway.” Not that it's bad to be confident or
    aggressive, but I think some people are getting a little fed up with
    that attitude.

  • Pingback: In the HuddleChat Debacle, a Lesson for Web 2.0 Startups - GigaOM

  • Hannah

    37 Signals' has really hurt their image over recent years. Their whiny response to this was just another step. They started with the great idea of saying “here's how we want to make apps, if you don't like it, use someone else's” to “if you don't agree with us, you're a moron”.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I agree, Hannah — there has been a real shift in tone to a kind of
    “our way or the highway.” Not that it's bad to be confident or
    aggressive, but I think some people are getting a little fed up with
    that attitude.

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