Google Continues AJAX Paradigm With Writely

March 10, 2006

Google is buying the four employee Upstartle, maker of the Web-based word processor Writely, for an undisclosed amount.

The search engine company picked up a piece of a puzzle that could evolve into its own version of an online office suite, which could compete with Microsoft's Office.

Microsoft sold 95 percent of software used in offices during 2005, according to the NPD Group.

Speculation began after Google's partnership with Sun Microsystems, reports of a Google calendar program surfaced, and the dawn of the AJAX driven Google maps.

AJAX, or asynchronous JavaScript and XML involves pre-loading code into a browser to avoid the holdup of consulting a server.

Writely is a web-based productivity application, using Web 2.0 technologies such as AJAX to provide a rich user experience in the browser. Users can be up and running in seconds -- no software installation required. At the same time, Writely has the familiar look and feel of a desktop application, making it easy to use and accessible to the mass market of computer users.

Writely users can upload documents into Writely from Microsoft Word and Sun Microsystems' OpenOffice.org, as well as save the documents back into either of those formats.

While Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff and others have hailed Writely as a serious challenge to Microsoft and its dominance of the office productivity market, Writely is not a carbon-copy of existing desktop solutions. Rather, Writely is an innovative, Web-centric word processor that leverages the connected nature of the Internet to provide online storage, editing, sharing and communication of documents - documents that users can now upload and save in multiple formats.

A Google web log entry noted the Upstartle Acquisition:

"Posted by Jen Mazzon, Google Writely Team

For the last five months, I've been part of a Silicon Valley startup called Upstartle, which makes Writely, a collaborative word processor that runs in a web browser. Well, as of Monday, I'm happy to say that I, and the rest of the Writely team, are now part of Google.

The other night, I was talking to my husband about how nervous I was to be starting work there. Truth be told, we've all been pretty overwhelmed for the past few weeks. What could our little team possibly do that's innovative enough? And he said, "Hello? You already did it!" It's true -- everyone told us it was crazy to try and give people a way to access their documents from anywhere -- not to mention share documents instantly, or collaborate online within their browsers. But that's exactly what we did. And since we launched the Writely beta in August 2005, many thousands of people have registered, and all of them came through word of mouth (and blog).

To be clear, Writely is still in beta, and it's far from perfect. Upholding our great user experience means everything to us, so we're not accepting new registrations until we've moved Writely to Google's software architecture. If you're interested in giving us a try, we hope you'll get on the waitlist so we can let you know when you'll be able to try out Writely."

The online office suite paradigm faces challenges in the area of business continuity and privacy. For instance, the on demand leader Salesforce.com, has suffered outages.

Moreover, Upstartle had difficulty dealing with the privacy objection as noted in its own blog. “Some people didn’t feel comfortable trusting a tiny startup with their documents... and we’re no longer a tiny startup,” wrote Writely’s Claudia Carpenter in the company’s own blog post announcing the acquisition.

Other start ups in online word processing market include JotSpot’s JotLive, 37signals’ Writeboard, and Zoho Writer.

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