1 November 2006

Google’s content binge

Overnight the news came through that Google has acquired JotSpot, a competitor to Confluence in the wiki market. Congratulations are due; this shows how well JotSpot has done since their inception three years ago. Their work has introduced wikis to many companies and individuals, and they've developed a fantastic product that helps thousands of people.

As with any Google purchase, there's a lot of talk on the web about it. Most of the comparisons though, seem to be with the acquisition of Writely, the "Web 2.0" word processing software, which Google snapped up in March. The comparison seems apt, since both companies are heavily focused on web technology, but I think it is more appropriate to compare this acquisition with the 2003 purchase of Blogger.

Back when GMail was just an invite-only beta release, and Google was just the best search engine, the acquisition of Blogger was puzzling to most Internet commentators. The real reason for Google's purchase was to start controlling the origination of new content on the web, not just the indexing of existing stuff. It seems like a natural fit now, but it was definitely a surprise to all the pundits in 2003.

The big question was: how does this fit with their existing business model primarily based on advertising? That seems obvious now if you look at Blogger and GMail. A minimal amount of advertising revenue will cover the cost of providing the service for free, and the content creation complements their search and other services. Having content under their control makes their indexing faster and cheaper, and therefore reduces the cost of providing advertisements. Blogger is different to Writely in that it came with a mass of existing users and large amount of data. Writely was a software purchase; Blogger was bought for its users and existing content.

This fits very nicely with JotSpot's business. They have a large existing customer base on their hosted wiki service -- exactly where Google wants to be, controlling the origination of new content on the web. They were developing an enterprise server wiki -- not in Google's interest, so it has been discontinued.

Google has sucked up the entire search market, now it's bingeing on content. I'm betting JotSpot won't be the last web content originator to be bought by Google.