HuddleChat, a real-time chat application that a team of three Google developers created to show off Google's new App Engine platform. The chat software bears a striking resemblance to the popular Campfire app from 37Signals. On blogs (here and here, too), on Twitter, and even on the HuddleChat App Engine gallery page people are ripping into Google for allegedly copying the application's design and feature set. 37Signal's founder Jason Fried told us by email that he was "disappointed" in Google. So what's going on here?Blogs are abuzz this morning about
HuddleChat was created by Google developers Darren Delaye, Braden Kowitz, and Kyle Consalus in their spare time to test out App Engine. Though upon signing in, it displays the standard App Engine disclaimer that Google is "not affiliated" with the app, it is clearly being endorsed by the company, which features it in their App Engine gallery.
"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," said 37Signals founder Jason Fried by email. "We thought that would be beneath Google, but maybe its time to reevaluate what they stand for." We sought comment from Kyle Consalus via the official HuddleChat support room, but received no response other than confirmation that he, Delaye, and Kowitz are Googlers.
This is not the first time that an application has taken design cues from 37Signals. Many early Ruby on Rails applications end up looking similar to 37Signals' own creations (HuddleChat was built in Python), such as forum software Beast, which borrowed what it calls the "sheet of paper" design from 37Signals. But this goes beyond design inspiration, Jason Fried told us.
Another interesting wrinkle to this story: 37Signals is supported by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who invested in the company in July 2006, and the Chicago-based company's web apps all run on Amazon's web services platform, a competitor in many respects to Google App Engine. Could it be that Google purposely chose to clone one of Amazon web services' greatest success stories specifically to show off the power for their new platform? Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence that Google unveiled App Engine at an event it called Campfire ...
Let us know your thoughts on the controversy in the comments below.