Google's Gone Wiki

When discussing Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) most recent quarter, Sergey Brin acknowledged that his company's frenetic rate of new product beta launches is sometimes "confusing." He also said the company is slowing its hyperactive product-launch schedule. But that hasn't stopped its march down the acquisition trail. Google has purchased a company called JotSpot, which provides tools through which people can create wikis.

Wikis are collaborative Web-based applications that allow people to easily post, share, and update information. If you're familiar with Web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia, which allows anyone to write and edit entries, then you've got the idea. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) also got into the wiki idea back in April, when it allowed users to write, edit, and update product-related wikis on its e-commerce site.

The wiki concept is part and parcel of what some call Web 2.0 -- the Internet's evolution toward user-generated, easily shared content. Everybody from Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) to the names mentioned above knows that there's a lot of useful benefit in getting users involved in content.

It goes without saying that JotSpot philosophically fits well with some of Google's other Internet-based applications and services, such as Google Calendars, Google Spreadsheets, Writely, and Blogger. Meanwhile, JotSpot already has a formidable customer base. It consists mostly of business customers -- which makes sense, since wikis lend themselves well to business needs, where effective collaboration is a must -- although the company also caters to individuals and families. In another plus, JotSpot is already close to being profitable -- it provides not only free services but for-pay products as well.

Although financial details weren't revealed, one can only imagine that the price tag pales in comparison with what Google paid for YouTube. And we all know that Google has deep pockets through which it can acquire companies that will help it continue to evolve its mission.

Google has always made organizing the world's information and content the core of its mission, and snapping up JotSpot fits in with that mission. On the other hand, while Google may be the top dog in straight-up search, it's had a hard time gaining traction among Internet users with many of its ancillary products. There may be a lot to like about Google, and an acquisition like this one does make logical sense. However, there's a lot that remains to be seen when it comes to Google's wish to excel in non-search-related Internet areas.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She is currently ranked 2,560th out of 11,909 in Motley Fool CAPS.


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