Earlier today our Josh Catone interviewed 37Signal founder Jason Fried about the striking similarities between one of Google's App Engine demos, HuddleChat (a real-time chat application) and the Campfire app from 37Signals. Fried told RWW that "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 feature, layout for layout". He went on to say that "we thought that would be beneath Google, but maybe its time to reevaluate what they stand for." Well Fried's protests seem to have worked, as Google has now taken down HuddleChat.

On our earlier post, Google didn't respond to our request for a comment at the time. However tonight Pete Koomen, Product Manager of the Google App Engine Team left a comment on ReadWriteWeb to say that they'd "taken HuddleChat down from the App Engine app gallery." Koomen went on to explain:

"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."

It's all a storm in a teacup, because this was just supposed to be a demo app. It was built internally at Google after all, and wasn't meant to be an official Google product that competed with 37Signals' Campfire. Techcrunch's Michael Arrington claims that "this is the first case of censorship on the new Google App Engine platform, and a bad precedent." That's probably going too far, as this was something that was built by Google employees and so I think Google has the right to pull it - if they feel that it reflects badly on them.

More than that though, I'd suggest that Google just doesn't want the latest blogtroversy to get out of hand (as these things are wont to do). But have they given it a second wind instead? ;-)