As a Jotspot customer I am not at all excited by the portents around Jot’s announcement that they had been acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum and that, for the moment, no new accounts could be created. From Jot’s Home Page
We’ve closed off new account registrations while we focus on migrating to Google’s systems. If you’d like to be notified when we re-open registration, enter your email address below.
Why when you would probably have the most interest in your service would you not allow me to add any accounts or allow anyone new to signup. Because it’s going to pull a Writely and dissolve indistinguishably into Google Docs & Spreadsheets. I don’t think this is a good reason to add new clients into a GoogleSpot workspace. This is an experiment on Google’s part. Their business model is advertising driven, and private workspaces for confidential work with clients–which is our use case–are not amenable to having a crawler come through to generate context specific advertising. I certainly agree with the three challenges that Jot faced as outlined by Scott McMullan in their developer blog:
- Startups fail all the time — will you be around next year?
- This will be mission critical for us — do you have the manpower to support your service?
- We need fast, reliable, and scalable access — are you up to snuff?
This looks to me like an experiment on Google’s part, and large companies abandon experiments all the time, especially since they haven’t announced an acquisition price. Mission critical doesn’t require Google scale to succeed (in fact a wiki service based on Amazon’s EC3 would be as rock solid, something for some of the remaining 100+ players to consider). Not only that but Amazon’s business model is more conducive to charging me a small amount for good service on a pay as you go basis. There are other grid alternatives as well worth considering,more on that later.
Peter Thoeney, speaking from the Twiki perspective, believes that this is a good thing because it eliminates them as a competitor in the enterprise space:
I believe this is good news for the open source TWiki project because:
- It further boosts the awareness of wikis in the general public; and with this will bring more recognition to TWikis running at the workplace.
- With JotSpot moving to hosted only solution and staying away from software packages and appliances, other enterprise level wikis will get more traffic, such as TWiki, Socialtext and Confluence. I have not seen many large companies that entrust their mission critical wiki data to be hosted by a third party.
I am more sanguine about the possibility for hosted wikis penetrating the enterprise, but I do think it’s good news for Twiki.
Ross Mayfield offers a way to “Get Yourself out of a Spot” We may take him up on it, if only to reduce some of the uncertainty for existing clients. Atlassian has also announced a migration path for JotSpot Wiki Server customers (but not folks like me who I think Zoli characterized correctly as preferring to pay rather than have Google analyze all of my shared work product with a client; it would be an interesting exclusion in the non-disclosure agreement: we allow the Google advertising context spider to read everything we work on together).
I will have to browse through the http://www.wikimatrix.org/ and investigate some alternatives. We also use Socialtext and EditMe with existing clients. We also use WebEx Office, which now looks like it should add/acquire a wiki (without raising prices).
I am not knocking the execution and delivery of Google’s Docs & Spreadsheets (see for example an Oct-17-2006 PC Mag Review) I was an early Writely user (but wouldn’t commit to any customers when they wouldn’t give me a monthly fee I could pay to guarantee service) and we have experimented with Google Spreadsheets and was extremely impressed. It’s the alignment of the Google business model with my business needs that has me the most concerned for this application.
End Note: while researching this I was surprised to learn that the San Jose Mercury was podcasting. They posted a Feb 2006 interview with Joe Kraus to add context to their Nov 1 news story.