Panasonic Youth

If you think Huddle is ripping off Campfire

…then you haven’t seen mIRC, an irc client app that has been around for years:

mirc screen shot

See anything familiar in the screen shot above?

Tabs on the top, list of participants in the right hand pane, and chat in the main window. Change the font to Lucida Grande 12 pt and put in a browser and you pretty much have the Campfire l&f, minus a whole lot of polish and design love. Chat applications tend to follow a pretty standard UI model, and the fact that Huddle took the 37 Signals style is a good thing for Jason Fried and co.

Here’s why: The look and feel from Basecamp and Campfire have become the defacto “template” for web 2.0 apps without a design of their own. There is a good reason for that: 37 Signals develops kickass UI’s. As long as they stay on top of their game and keep their customers happy, they have nothing to worry about from people ripping off their design. The customer who leaves your app for a free one because the CSS is the same is a customer you don’t really want anyways.

Here’s the standard process whenever this becomes public and everyone gets up in arms about it:

  • 37 Signals gets a ton of free press and attention.
  • Paid users for the app in question (campfire in this instance) shrug and say "huh, I'm pretty happy with my service, and I'm not going to switch.
  • People new to both apps who are in the market try both and choose on their merits.
  • The user experience for the 37 Signals' apps remains superior in most cases, as they are continuously tweaking and improving while copycats are stagnant or trying to keep up.

What exactly is the problem here?

The more interesting point about Huddle, and Google App Engine in general, is the lack of diversity the platform provides for. But please, drop the “Google ripped off 37 Signals oh noess!!!!” angle.