Atlassian just became a WebRTC superpower. Sort of.
The news is out. Yesterday, Atlassian announced through their HipChat blog that they acquired Blue Jimp:
We’ve acquired Blue Jimp, the mastermind team behind the Jitsi Community.
The title itself speaks volumes of Atlassian’s needs and intent: “HipChat acquires Blue Jimp & Jitsi.org”
TechCrunch did the usual coverage of this, while the rest of the tech media was silent.
To understand what Blue Jimp did along with an analysis of how this affects the WebRTC ecosystem, I’d recommend Chad Hart’s post.
I do like to reflect on a few issues with this acquisition though:
- WebRTC isn’t that interesting of a subject
- Media coverage of this acquisition was low
- Not many out of the tight WebRTC community know or understand the topic and the nuances of the technology and the offerings on the market today, so the importance of this acquisition was not picked up by most news sites
- Either Atlassian didn’t do a good job of briefing the media and analysts, or there just isn’t enough interest
- You can see this also in the company valuations of those being acquired
- Blue Jimp isn’t the important party here. Jitsi Video bridge is
- You can read my interview of Jitsi from 2014
- Blue Jimp is a small open source shop specializing in VoIP
- They developed the Jitsi client, which was SIP based and understood in time that WebRTC will kill that business. This led them to develop the Jitsi Videobridge
- The Videobridge component is what vendors are looking for
- AddLive, acquired a year ago by SnapChat, was used by Atlassian (at least from what was indicated on AddLive’s website)
- Since the acquisition, Atlassian had to switch its vendor
- It probably decided to go it alone instead of being dependent again on a third party
- SnapChat wasn’t the only bidder, and so the need for a multyparty video solution remained
- Jitsi Videobridge became the default solution for many tinkerers who wanted to have a multiparty solution
- The problem with getting the Jitsi Videobridge to larger corporations was its open source license
- Jitsi uses LGPL. A non-permissive license that is somewhat challenging for commercial use. While it is suitable for SaaS, many lawyers prefer not to deal with it
- This reduces the Jitsi Videobridge’s chance to get adopted by enterprise developers who can pour more resources into it
- This may limit Jitsi from building the ecosystem Atlassian wants (i.e – outsourcing some of the development effort to an external developers community)
- Using BSD, MIT or Apache licenses would have been a better alternative. Will Atlassian choose that route? I am not sure
- Did Atlassian leave the open source offering due to legal issues or real intent in becoming an open source powerhouse?
- It is the end of the line for the outsourcing/consulting/customization work that Blue Jimp is doing on Jitsi
- Will another nimble open source shop take the mantle and offer such services on top of Jitsi? Maybe &yet, who have worked recently on incorporating the Jitsi Videobridge into its Talky assets?
- Without support and the ability to buy an SLA, what are existing users of the Jitsi Videobridge expected to do?
- Acquiring Jitsi Videobridge still leaves a lot of work for the HipChat developers – things they theoretically got by using AddLive WebRTC PaaS:
- Plugins for Safari and IE, closing WebRTC gaps in web browsers
- SDKs for iOS and Android, making real time communication available in mobile
- Scaling, monitoring, managing and maintaining the service itself
- HipChat acquired Jitsi. Not Atlassian directly
- Atlassian, HipChat, Blue Jimp, Jitsi
- Atlassian acquires Blue Jump or HipChat acquires Jitsi?
- The main focus of Atlassian is getting real time communications into HipChat itself
- Atlassian probably see less value in incorporating video chats into its others assets – Jira and Confluence
- It will probably do that indirectly by the integration of HipChat to Jira and Confluence
- This was an acquihire of developers and technology. Blue Jimp’s customers and business models are of no importance to either Atlassian or HipChat
- While no price was mentioned, Jitsi should have been acquired at $30 million USD or less
- SnapChat acquired AddLive for a total of $30 million USD
- Jitsi should be worth less – it has only the SFU component of AddLive’s technology – lacking SDKs, plugins and a running service
- That said, there aren’t many alternatives for the acquirers of such a technology, so Jitsi probably didn’t sell cheap
- What will other potential suitors of Jitsi do now? There are no obvious alternatives to acquire in the market today
- Enterprise messaging are serious about gobbling up unified communications
- I made this clear in my recent presentation at Enterprise Connect
- Enterprise Video Conferencing vendors are slow to adopt WebRTC technology, and when they do, they only fit it into their existing offering and business model – doing little to disrupt or innovate
- Enterprise Messaging care less about how video conferencing should work and more about how real time communication fits into the user experiences that they offer
Why was this so important for HipChat? Here’s a session Jonathan Nolen, HipChat’s Product Manager, gave at our Kranky Geek event on June 2014:
This is the 16th WebRTC acquisition, and the 3rd one this year. Interesting times.
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