Google has acquired Appjet, the company behind real-time document collaboration service Etherpad. The Etherpad team will join the search giant to work on the development of Google Wave.
The news, confirmed on the Etherpad blog, means Etherpad will be closed on 31 March 2010. Existing users will be given invites for Wave.
If you’ve never used Etherpad, it’s a document collaboration service, similar to Google Docs but with updates to documents visible by all users in real time. In other words, it’s Google Docs meets Wave.
The acquisition points to an interesting possibility for the future. As Wave matures could Google Docs be wound down? Wave, with its social features and plug-in supporting architecture, certainly would make a good basis for a 21st century office suite.
While Google Docs is simply a cloud-based version of the office suites we’ve been using since the early days of computing, Wave (in a mature form) could redefine the way we work. Google knows this, making acquiring the Etherpad team a smart move.
While the closing of Etherpad may be frustrating to existing users of the service, they can at least be grateful that AppJet has given them a clear roadmap to the shutdown. The service is now closed to new users and existing Professional users will not be charged for the remainder of Etherpad’s life. AppJet has even given clear instructions on exporting docs from Etherpad so that they’re not lost.
Compare that with the all-too-familiar situation when a start-up is acquired and tells its users virtually nothing about the future, leaving the service to wilt and die. We’re looking at you FriendFeed.
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