Google: Afraid of looking like a bully?

So after much hullabaloo and rejoicing over the launch of its Amazon-style “cloud computing” service, Google decided to take down the first app build to run on that service, a collaborative workspace called Huddlechat. Why? Apparently some people thought it was a ripoff of Campfire, a collaborative chat-workspace thing from “software as a service” superstars 37signals. Jason Fried of 37signals told Read/Write Web that he was flattered, but said he wondered why Google “stooped so low” as to “basically copy it feature for feature, layout for layout.”

I have to say I’m with Ethank Kaplan of blackrimglasses on this one: He calls the “lynch mobbing” over a few similarities “retarded” (although I think he means “developmentally delayed”). Did Huddlechat look like 37signals’ Campfire? I guess so, from the screenshots. I mean, there’s a group IM chat window on the left, with some navigational stuff on the right. Is that somehow exclusive to 37signals? Seems to me Google Groups looks a lot like that too, and Yahoo Groups for that matter.

It seems obvious that Google took the app down because it didn’t want the bad PR of looking like a bully, like a big, bad company ripping off someone else’s app to promote its new App Engine (especially since the App Engine has been criticized for taking a “lock-in” style approach). But the whole thing seems a little ridiculous to me.

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