Salesforce.com acquires DimDim: beware the Ides of March

DimDim was acquired by Salesforce today. What does this mean for data held in stand alone solutions?
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Salesforce.com acquired DimDim, a web conferencing service vendor for $31 million. Congratulations. What is not so good is the way the service is being terminated. Along with many others, I am/was a free account user and today received an email saying:

Dear Customer:

Dimdim has been acquired by salesforce.com. Your free Dimdim account will remain active until March 15, 2011. After that date, you will no longer be able to access your free Dimdim account.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for additional information.

We appreciate your understanding, and we thank you!

The Dimdim Team

When you visit the FAQ it is basically saying the following:

If you are on a month to month subscription or annual subscription DimDim will honor access and support through the end of the subscription period. Otherwise come March 15th, the service will be switched off and you will not be able to get access to any documents or data that DimDim currently holds.

The obvious advice is to check out any documents and data before the service closes or before your subscription expires if after March 15th. For most practical purposes, that means 15th March even if your subscription runs longer because as of that date, the service is in sunset mode. Salesforce.com has made clear that it is not acquiring DimDim for the customer base but for the technology.

DimDim cannot be criticized because its actions are in accordance with the terms and conditions to which users signed. However it exposes an oft overlooked potential problem when signing up for cloud based solutions and especially those that are new or in beta. There are a lot of them and many may not be around tomorrow.

In the eyes of enterprise IT, that creates uncertainty and represents a potential risk they won't want to manage. In this case, Salesforce.com will argue: don't worry - we're a big company, we'll be around for many years, we're going to develop this, make it better and improve Chatter. The implication is: if you like what DimDim is doing then we will be able to offer you more.

I'd counter by pointing to the many rumors and predictions that suggest Salesforce.com gets acquired. The most frequent names I hear are Oracle or Google. I don't care which because neither have shown themselves to be great stewards of acquired technology.

Many analysts make the no-brainer prediction that 2011 will be a year of further IT consolidation as though it is something new. It is in the nature of the IT market that consoilidation will continue. Just be aware of that.

It is more important to understand the intentions of your service provider. In this case, DimDim is going to a reliable home unless Salesforce is acquired. But you can't make any plans based on those rumors because that's all they are - rumors and the stuff of analyst chatter.

As I said earlier in regard to SocialText, stand alone social services will not win. I stand by that prediction in most cases. Services like DimDim, with the obvious competitive threats from WebEx etc let alone potential acquisition are threatened. If you use stand alone services of any kind that are in any way business critical then at the very least:

  1. Check out the terms and conditions.
  2. Ensure you can get all of your data out of the service and
  3. Regularly back up that data anyway.

For those concerned about this potential problem, it is important to understand the roadmaps of companies like Salesforce.com. It has clearly signaled its intent to acquire technology needed to flesh out its Chatter story but for which it doesn't possess the resource to develop for itself. Now is the time to be considering what other services it might add.

If you are investing in social software, then look at the suite players. They may not be wholly immune from acquisition but the depth of solution should keep them insulated for the time being or until they reach a size where their market presence either makes them a category winner or acquisition target by a much larger player.

Endnote: Kudos to Sameer Patel and Sandy Kemsley for the headline hint.

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