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Lame duck EtherPad goes open source

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Google has acquired AppJet, makers of a real-time document-sharing service known as EtherPad. And it would appear Google merely wants the company for its talent.

According to a web post from AppJet, its EtherPad team will soon be put work on Google Wave, the new-age Mountain View service that combines email and IM with, yes, real-time document sharing - the ability for multiple users to edit the same document at the same time.

With a second post, AppJet also says it's "working with" the Australia-based Google Wave team to open-source the EtherPad code. Google intends to open-source Wave as well, and some pieces of the platform - which is meant to replace email - have already been set free.

EtherPad allows for collaboration via a shared online space that's known, in predictable fashion, as a pad. On Friday, as it announced the acquisition, AppJet closed the service to new users and shutdown the creation of pads for existing users. But a day later, after an apparent protest from existing users, it had a change of heart. New pads are available again - for the time being.

"We have begun planning how to open source the code to EtherPad and the underlying AppJet Web Framework," the company says. "We will continue maintaining new pad creation from the EtherPad home page at least until we have open sourced the code, and work hard to make sure there will be no or minimal service disruption in the future."

"[The Google Wave] team we are joining already gets open source, and we hope that by releasing the code to EtherPad we will not only help you transition your existing workflow, but also contribute to the broader advancement of realtime collaboration technology."

Google has yet to acknowledge the acquisition with a post of its own. But AppJet is apparently speaking for the company. "We do realize (as does the Google Wave team) that Wave doesn't yet have all the functionality you rely on, and isn't yet as mature as EtherPad," AppJet continues. "We are confident that in the long term you will be really happy with Google Wave, though. That's why we decided to join them!"

The post also says that AppJet is working to provide its users with Google Wave invites within "the next couple of weeks." Wave is currently a limited beta and invites are at a premium.

AppJet intends to shutdown its existing service on March 31, 2010. "Your pads will no longer be accessible after March 31, 2010, at which time your pads and any associated personally identifiable information will be deleted."

EtherPad was available in free and for-pay versions, and each offers various means of exporting data to the desktop. Following the acquisition, users of the for-pay "professional" version have been given a new tool that lets them export to ZIP files.

What's more, the for-pay service is no longer for-pay.

There's also a downloadable "private network edition" of EtherPad, and AppJet says it will continue to offer support and maintenance services through the current term of any existing support and maintenance contracts. But contracts will not be renewed. ®

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