Regular readers of this blog know that I have long been advocating Open Source as a SaaS Endgame. It is my argument this kind of escrow will help build customer trust on SaaS, especially from smaller SaaS vendors.
This is the beauty of open source. It not only reduces the risk for SaaS users, it also opens up new vistas in the marketplace.
I strongly encourage vendors to open source their SaaS applications much like WordPress, Deki Wiki or Wikidot. If not, I would urge them to consider releasing the source code of their app under one of the open source licenses when they shut down their service.
When Google announced the end of Google Wave, I pointed out to the availability of the core of Google Wave as open source and hoped that it is taken further and put to use.
The positive side to this news is the fact that Google has released the core code as Open Source. I hope someone will take the core code and build a viable platform on top of it. After all, Open Source is a good SaaS endgame.
Well, Google folks associated with Google Wave project have announced their plans about what is next for Google Wave source code. The current code developers are planning to build it into an appliance that can be readily deployed with the hope that other developers, those with a keen interest to take Wave to the next level and developers in the Wave ecosystem, will actively work on the project. This point is very important. Even though I strongly evangelize open source as an endgame for SaaS, Matthew Aslett of The 451 Group clearly points out that just the release of the code under open source license is not a guarantee for the software to flourish.
However I am less convinced by the latter argument. There is a fine line between life after death and the living dead and the release of code under an open source license is no guarantee of re-birth.
Matthew’s point is very relevant in this case. Even though Google has announced their intention to build out an easily deployable appliance of Google Wave, they have clearly hinted that they are expecting a core group of open source developers to take it further along. They are not going to keep supporting it forever. This clearly brings into focus the challenges to give it a life after its death in Google Labs.
- We have to see a strong group of developers (volunteers and developers working on the ecosystem projects) who will actively work on the project and keep advancing it to the next levels
- We have to see a strong user base for the platform. The main reason for Google to shut down Google Wave is the lack of traction among the users. If a hosted platform supported by Google couldn’t gain traction, I am not sure how it will gain any traction when users are required to host it on their own servers. Unless the project doesn’t gain users, we won’t be seeing much interest among developers to contribute to it
- The only other way to ensure a life after death is when one or more commercial vendors adopt Wave platform and offer it as a hosted multi-tenant solution. They will definitely have the passionate users who are clamoring for the resurrection of Google Wave and they could gain further traction by avoiding the mistakes of Google. A more user friendly Wave platform will definitely attract more users. There is clearly a business opportunity here but I am not entirely sure how many will be interested in this after seeing Google give it up
In spite of the above mentioned challenges, the Wave in a Box is a good news for many of us who loved Google Wave as a real time collaboration platform. The project will include
- an application bundle including a server and web client supporting real-time collaboration using the same structured conversations as the Google Wave system
- a fast and fully-featured wave panel in the web client with complete support for threaded conversations
- a persistent wave store and search implementation for the server (building on contributed patches to implement a MongoDB store)
- refinements to the client-server protocols
- gadget, robot and data API support
- support for importing wave data from wave.google.com
- the ability to federate across other Wave in a Box instances, with some additional configuration
It will be interesting to see how this project plays out in the next couple of years. The enthusiasm shown by the developers and users will define if (Google) Wave will be having a life after death or living dead.
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- Google Wave becomes Wave in a Box (infoworld.com)
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- ovigia: Google Wave’s open source future “in a Box” – The H Open Source: News and Features (h-online.com)