Four years ago, Google axed a year-old collaborative messaging platform called Wave, as part of its drive to clear out relatively low-adoption standalone products ahead of its big bring-everything-together Google+ push. Google passed the code on to the Apache project, which quietly developed it further, but in a way that meant users need to run their own server.
Now Wave is back in easy-to-use form, for those that want it. The rather exciting Sandstorm project, which is building a “personal cloud platform” that can be hosted for regular users or self-installed by techie types, has ported Wave onto that platform. That means Sandstorm users can now install Wave with a click and start collaborating with friends and colleagues without needing to set up a server.
In a Wednesday blog post describing the port as “an unspeakable act of technical necromancy,” Sandstorm lead Kenton Varda said Wave could still be really useful for things like design discussions, because it’s easy for people to comment on individual parts of the initial post, and to keep threads well-organized.
“We’ve adapted Wave to rely on Sandstorm for sharing. What that means right now is that to share a wave with anyone, all you have to do is send them the URL. They don’t even need to have a Sandstorm account,” Varda wrote. “Sandstorm’s sharing model will become more sophisticated in the future, but we consider it critical that sharing with anyone – whether they have an account or not – be as frictionless as possible.”
Many web apps have been ported over to Sandstorm since I last covered them, including WordPress (see disclosure), the email client Roundcube (joining Mailpile, which is already on there), and the EtherCalc spreadsheet tool. As all these apps should be able to work in conjunction, Sandstorm has the potential to be a solid, decentralized Google Apps competitor with a much bigger range of constituent apps.
As Varda wrote, it’s also a good place to send stuff that people use, but that’s maybe not profitable enough for the likes of Google:
“We see companies shutting down useful apps all the time. Often, they offer users the opportunity to download their data as massive zip files full of useless XML. Wouldn’t it be great if these companies could give you not just your data, but also the app, in a format that you could easily keep using? We hope that in the future, developers will decide that it makes more sense to convert their failed SaaS offerings into Sandstorm apps. This way, companies can cut their costs without leaving users out in the cold.”
As you can tell, I’m pretty keen on the Sandstorm model and I’d like to see it happen — the outfit is currently crowdfunding, but too slowly for my liking.
We need a platform that provides a way into the privacy-friendly world of decentralization while being as easy to use as the big commercial beasts, and this is probably the best proposal I’ve seen thus far. Giving useful but not-so-profitable web apps a place to thrive is, for me at least, the cherry on top.
Disclosure: WordPress firm Automattic is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.