"We're flattered Google thinks Campfire is a great product. We're just disappointed that they stooped so low to basically copy it feature for feature, layout for layout. We thought that would be beneath Google, but maybe its time to reevaluate what they stand for."
"Oh shit. Google's giving something better away for free."
Copying Campfire "feature for feature, layout for layout" is about as complicated as copying a single text field, a single button, and big viewing area - it's not exactly patentable rocket science here. Sorry, Jason, but there are good reasons most web companies don't charge for these insanely simple apps, and one of those is how easy it is to replace them.
Lest you misunderstand, let me go on record as saying that, for the most part, I love 37Signals. I love the simplicity of their applications and the perspective they bring to the web community on their blog. I even think they have a right to be upset - if I sold burritos and someone opened a burrito shop next door that sold bigger burritos I'd be mad too. But that's not unethical; that's competition. When you boil a problem down to the basics and provide a very basic solution, it's pretty hard to compete without copying, at least in part. Since problem boiling is 37Signals' bread and butter, they should be used to this by now.
What makes this response a little...annoying...is that Jason and everyone at 37Signals are usually very forthright and very reasonable. They're a little arrogant and sometimes silly, but this sort of smug posturing just seems out of character.
If HuddleChat manages to take any large set of users away from Campfire, it will only be because 37Signals failed to incorporate enough of the features their users requested and failed to make the application free, and that's not stealing - that's called innovation.
Apparently Jason's not the only one at 37Signals to get a little upset about HuddleChat.
Update: Google killed HuddleChat last night, fearing the ill will of the development community. I guess competing with 37S wasn't on their radar after all.