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March 09, 2006

Google Acquires Online Word Processing Service

Courtesy of CRN

Continuing its trend of gobbling up promising Web 2.0 startups, Google has acquired Writely, an online word processing service. Both companies posted the news on their corporate blogs Thursday.

Writely allows users to store and work with text documents on the Web. Users can share selected documents with other Writely users of their choosing, enabling groups to collaboratively edit documents.

Launched in August by Upstartle, a three-person software development firm, the Writely service has operated as a free beta project, though its developers said their eventual goal was to introduce subscription fees for advanced features and corporate use. After announcing its acquisition by Google, Writely promptly closed its site to new registrations while it works on migrating to Google's software stack. The site plans to continue operating normally for current registered users.

Writely attracted geek acclaim for its elegance, functionality and accessibility, with some pundits hailing it as a "Microsoft Word killer" for users turning to hosted Web applications for tasks previously handled by desktop software. Writely developer Claudia Carpenter posted in Writely's blog that the team expects to join Google to help Writely develop and grow more rapidly. "Writely is like a caterpillar that we hope to make into a beautiful butterfly at Google," Carpenter wrote.

Google declined to discuss its integration plans for Writely. "We acquired Writely for the innovative technology and talented team. We're thrilled to have them here," Google spokesman Barry Schnitt said in an e-mailed statement.

Google has become an aggressive acquirer of innovative software startups. Last month, it snapped up Measure Map, a nascent blog traffic tracker. Measure Map also closed itself to new registrations right after announcing its Google buyout and has not yet reopened. Other recent Google purchases include radio advertising platform dMarc, mobile phone software maker Android and mobile social networking technology developer Dodgeball.

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