Is Google App Engine HuddleChat a Campfire Rip-Off?

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Of all the App Engine apps in all the developer joints in all the Google universe, Google walks into a land mine: HuddleChat.

There's only one problem: HuddleChat is a dead ringer for 37signals Campfire, the leading web-based group chat for business.

Why would Google endorse an app that's the spitting image of one of the world's most popular business chat products? Google prides itself on UI design. When we logged into Google's App Engine poster boy, HuddleChat, we were surprised to find a Campfire carbon copy.

"We're flattered Google thinks Campfire is a great product," said Jason Fried, 37signals CEO and co-founder. "We're just disappointed that they stooped so low to basically copy it feature for feature, layout for layout. We thought that would be beneath Google, but maybe its time to reevaluate what they stand for."

How important is the Google App Engine product preview launch? Let's see:

Google's first-quarter earnings call will be on April 17, after market close.

Wall St. expects Google revenue to disappoint based on comScore CTR data.

App Engine marks the first full-frontal Google assault on Amazon.

The success of Google App Engine depends on developer trust in Google.

So it would seem either Salar Kamangar, Vice President, Product Management had no clue HuddleChat was an "Attack of the Clones" app or he gave the greenlight for a product launch knowing many in the developer community would likely view Google App Engine as a Xerox machine for copycat product developers.

We've asked Google and Salar for a statement. We'll keep you posted.

The reaction in the developer community seems to be astonishment: calling Google's choice "obviously ethically wrong" and a "straight-up copy." One blogger wrote, "OMG, the Clone feature in Google App Engine is amazing. Turned Campfire into Huddle, a la peanut butter sandwiches."

Or in the case of Google's Campfire One, S'mores.

About the author

Kevin Heisler, formerly the executive editor of Search Engine Watch, is a search and advertising industry veteran. His former roles include VP, strategic accounts for integrated digital marketing firm 360i; director of business development for Didit Search Marketing; and search industry analyst at Jupiter Research.

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