Google dives into the deep end of the wiki pool

So Google lobs another mind grenade in the general direction of Redmond with today's news that they have acquired JotSpot - an interesting player in the wiki-as-application-framework space that includes others like Central Desktop and Mindtouch. What does it all mean?
Written by Marc Orchant, Contributor

So Google lobs another mind grenade in the general direction of Redmond with today's news that they have acquired JotSpot - an interesting player in the wiki-as-application-framework space that includes others like Central Desktop and Mindtouch. What does it all mean?

There's no shortage of prognostication and conjecture. Techmeme is overflowing with links to commentary from far and wide. ZDnet's bloggers are weighing in - Dan Farber and David Berllind have posts up that ask important questions about how JotSpot fits onto the ever-expanding Googleplex. Dan discusses the alignment and integration issues Google will have to address as their portfolio grows. David ponders the implications Google's move, as well as recent Yahoo acquisitions, will have on Microsoft's inevitable need to figure out how acquisitions of open source technologies will work in their culture.

My thoughts on the news tend to run along a tangent to these weighty considerations, focused as I usually am on the "rest of us" who do not work for enterprise or even midmarket organizations. While wikis may be a great framework for larger organizations with the personnel and infrastructure to support adoption of open-ended technologies, I don't hear any clamoring from the SMB market or free agent/digital nomad world for a wiki-based application framework.

In fact, I'd go so far as to take the position that most small- and medium-sized business owners have no clue what a wiki is and remain spectacularly unconcerned about their ignorance. While the power of Google's brand should not be underestimated, simply stamping a Google label on JotSpot (and I agree with Dan that G-spot would be a seriously bad name for the newly acquired product) isn't likely to change that.

No, the SMB market isn't likely to get hot and bothered by this news. Curious perhaps, but ultimately I predict that they'll shrug their shoulders and move along.

That's not to say this a bad move on Goggle's part. Looking at the successes they are reporting for their Google Apps for Your Domain offerings, this JotSpot acquisition will probably increase the adoption of Google solutions by higher education and midmarket companies. These organizations have the IT staff, infrastructure for training, and budgetary drivers to escape the Microsoft tax on the one hand and steer clear of going completely open source DIY on the other.

There's precious little to go on as of yet. The e-mail I received from JotSpot this morning announcing the acquisition was lovingly worded to express that I had no need to be concerned for the well-being of my JotSpot account, that I would not be charged anymore for any premium services I might have paid for (I haven't), and that more information would be forthcoming sometime in the future. All good things to know but the e-mail was lacking in any substance about what the future holds for JotSpot.

SocialText's Ross Mayfield posted his congratulation this morning. The real point of his post was, of course, to remind anyone listening that SocialText is now the only vendor offering a "proven" wiki appliance. And to point out that the acquisition will commodotize the low end of the wiki market - wherever that end might actually be. I've had invitations from a couple of other wiki vendors to have a chat about the meaning of this and listen to their take on what it all means. As Dan said in his post, it can't be good news for those not chosen.

Google is a mysterious company. Sometimes I think they have more money than sense and are just flinging dollars around to keep Microsoft unbalanced and distracted from the one this really matters - revenue from contextual advertising on search and web services pages. That is, after all, the single legged stool on which the company's success rests its increasing weight.

OK... that's what I think most of the time. The YouTube acquisition, for example, made perfect sense to me in this context. More page views for ads served up by Google. A replacement for the clunky and cumbersome Google Video. Fine. Got it. Good move.

How Google plans to recoup this investment is less clear. But two things are certain. They have something in mind. And it's got to be driving the folks in Redmond crazy trying to figure out what they're up to. Game on.

News flash: As I was finishing up this post, I see that SocialText has already fired a shot across the bow, aiming to acquire help out JotSpot customers fretting over the meaning of today's news. On the SocialText blog, the following offer has been made:

Socialtext, the first wiki company, announced today a free hosted wiki program for JotSpot customers following that company's acquisition by Google. Socialtext will migrate JotSpot wiki content and provide one year of Socialtext Professional hosted wiki service to any JotSpot customer who signs up by the end of November 2006. While most JotSpot customers are small-to-midsized businesses, this offer is extended to deployments of any size.

"Our experience has been that JotSpot customers convert to Socialtext when they realize they need a real business-class wiki," said Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield. "We have been gaining customers since they discontinued their Appliance offering. We hear a high degree of uncertainty from users faced with a potential lag in innovation and unclear integration strategy with Google. Socialtext is ready to support you and your business during this critical time."

Game on, indeed.

Editorial standards