Monday this week Google launched its App Engine, which was very well received by developers and users alike. Unfortunately, attention turned elsewhere on Tuesday as Google was caught with its pants down by the online community. To demonstrate App Engine, Google created an app it called "HuddleChat." Quick-eyed users quickly noted however, that HuddleChat was a definite copy of 37signals’ Campfire app.
Campfire is a web-based group chat software that allows people and business groups located in different areas to communicate, share information, collaborate and keep track of chats.
Borrowing someone’s idea is a practice that’s very common in the software industry and is obviously a common occurrence online. But the search outfit that "does no evil" is a bit shaky in its shoes as of late. Google’s PR group released a statement about HuddleChat yesterday saying:
"Like the other sample apps in the Google App Engine gallery, HuddleChat was written by several Googlers as a side project to demonstrate the usefulness of Google App Engine."
Unsatisfied with Google’s PR, online users began posting articles comparing Huddle Chat with with Campfire, and things really sparked. The feedback was so bad that Google ended up posting a retraction to their original PR:
"The App Engine team was looking for some sample apps to help kick the tires on their new system, so we invited Googlers to build some as side projects. A couple of our colleagues here built HuddleChat in their spare time because they wanted to share work within their team more easily and thought persistent web chat would do the trick. We’ve heard some complaints from the developer community, though, so rather than divert attention from Google App Engine itself, we thought it better to just take HuddleChat down."
No mention about Campfire in Google’s new PR.
37Signals founder Jason Fried noted deep similarities between HuddleChat and Campfire. Fried expressed concerns about Google’s ethics and questioned the search giant’s motives.
"We’re flattered Google thinks Campfire is a great product, we’re just disappointed that they stooped so low to basically copy it feature for features, layout for layout. We thought that would be beneath Google, but maybe it’s time to reevaluate what they stand for," said Fried.