Yesterday our competitor, Jot, leaked
that they signed a former Socialtext customer as their first paying
customer. The cable network engineering department of Disney had a six
month evaluation of our appliance that they decided not to renew. They
are an innovative tinkering group, one we showcased for its bleeding
edge use of RSS at Web 2.0, that swaps tools all the time.
We're glad to be the market leader JotSpot feels it needs to go after -- and we are confident that customers who spend time with both products will find Socialtext's service easier to use, more reliable and enterprise-ready.
Unfortunately, wiki wars
makes a nice headline too, so old-school PR tricks are at play. I've
stayed rather positive as the goal is to grow the market we have a
decided lead in. But its probably time to point out some very big
differences between Socialtext and Jot.
Being Market Ready vs. Secure Scalable Appliance
For the past two years, Socialtext has done more than foster a market and develop a great application users love. We have learned and delivered upon real enterprise requirements. Today, Socialtext is market ready, offering not only a hosted service, but the Socialtext Appliance which is scalable, secure and deployed behind the firewall of a number of F500 companies.
TJ Jacobi appropriately blogs: "Could it be that the market for corporate wikis is so small?" The basic answer is no, Socialtext itself already has over 75 paying customers. We have won customers who evaluated the competition, but our approach to the market is to recognize how big it is already and to grow it, not treat it as zero-sum. Matt Langham points out this is just the normal ebb and flow of business: "Of course it's not a war...It's normal everyday business and social software companies are no less in this to win (and sometimes lose) customers."
I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to why Jot only has one
paying customer -- one that Socialtext trained and educated. We look
forward to Jot emerging from beta and competing in the marketplace,
where a robust comparison for the customers will yield stronger
products and more obvious choices.
Proprietary Platform vs. Open Source Application
Zero-sum thinking is lazy, and quite frankly, old-school. It cements
itself into the business model, product and culture of a company very
Jotspot is a proprietary development platform that uses wiki as a container for applications developed upon it. They are going after the "Lotus Notes for the Web" sweet spot occupied by entrenched incumbents. Their self-described market is the 10 million or so users with Visual Basic level skills, attempting to convince them to develop upon their platform. Its a tough sell:
- Getting developers to build upon closed-source
- Convincing them to learn proprietary scripting languages
- Having them choose your platform over established platforms
Honestly, I wish them luck with
it, as it's not where we are going.
Socialtext chose to base its applications on top of the open
source kwiki because its simply good business. For our enterprise
customers, it reduces the risk of lock-in and assures that we will be
around for a long time. For our developer community, they gain the
contributions we make to the open source version and benefit from our
stewardship. For users, all products improve because there is a vibrant
community that accelerates development of plugins and a robust
Complexity vs. Wiki
Since wikis are the simplest thing that could possibly work, they are
inheritently open. When Ward invented the wiki 10 years ago, the vision
was a social application where experts and novices can collaborate equally.
is to fulfill the wiki mission by keeping it simple and accessible for
all. Our market is the 400 million business users of email who reject
the complexity of enterprise systems and simply want the benefits of
group productivity solutions. One day there will be a wiki server next
to every Exchange server and people will discover the power of working
openly and socially.
Today Socialtext is robust in all the right places. Our new visual editor enables broader use without having to learn wiki punctuation.
Our email integration has enabled users to contribute to a Workspace
without ever entering it or changing their behavior. Our integrated
weblogs have enabled productive project communication. A lot of our
innovation is behind the scenes, appliance features some never see and
the boring stuff in the backend that keeps up our great reputation for
quality service. Our development team of social software and open
source leaders still has plenty of tricks up their sleeves, so I'm
confident we'll continue to deliver value for customers and innovate.
The most basic wiki was written in five lines of code. However tempting
it is to bolt a wiki onto an existing application or platform, beware
the complexity as it degrades the essence of wiki. Developing features
is easy, have the wisdom to not develop features is hard. What users really want in this day and age is the power of simplicity.
Old School vs. New School
Matt Marshall depicts the war as venture capital model vs. bootstrap,
but its more than that. We learned a lot during the boom and bust about
building sustainable businesses that shouldn't be forgotten. Over the
last 10 years innovations that are as much about social practice as
they are code, such as wiki and open source, have arisen as empowering
models. By consequence, startups are embracing new ethics such as doing
the simplest thing that works, releasing early and often, developing
open architectures of participation.
I'd bet my money (already have) on participatory business models that
encourages innovation at the edge and cooperative market architectures
instead of antiquated zero-sum thinking.
Jot may think they have won a skirmish against their leading competitor. But really, its at the cost of their customer, and the only harm to us is taking my time to write this post.