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TechCrunch on L’Affaire HuddleChat

Mike Arrington claims not to see the problem with HuddleChat, and a slew of commenters at TechCrunch are with him, more or less arguing that it’s ridiculous to claim that 37signals somehow owns the concept of web-based group chat. Which is stupid, because no one made that argument. (Does Artie MacStrawman have a web-app cousin?)

Consider, say, Movable Type and WordPress. WordPress came along with a free (beer and freedom) package that does the same basic thing as Movable Type and took a big chunk of the market away. But I’ve never seen anyone call WordPress a rip-off or clone of Movable Type. Why? Because it isn’t. It’s an original implementation of the same basic idea. A new implementation of the same concept is competition; a clone of an existing implementation is a rip-off.

Also, Arrington writes:

And why, since HuddleChat is not an official Google product, was it Google that made the decision to pull it down and not the developers who created it? Google was very careful to say that they were not affiliated with HuddleChat while it was up — that, apparently, wasn’t the case.

Arrington, who’s an attorney, ought to know better. Under California law, Google owns the rights to any product created by Google employees. It may well be that HuddleChat went live without approval from anyone high up on the org chart, but it was most definitely a Google-owned product.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008