YC-Funded Stypi Is Etherpad Reborn

Etherpad fans, get excited — a new Y Combinator-backed startup called Stypi has built a nearly identical product, and it’s launching today.

First, a little history: back in 2008 we first covered a nifty, real-time document editor from YC alum AppJet called Etherpad. The text editor allowed multiple people to edit the same document simultaneously, with all edits appearing in real-time for everyone else viewing the document. It was lightweight and easy to share with collaborators — and it was so good that it could have potentially poised a threat to Google Docs. Which is why it wasn’t surprising when Google acquired the company in December 2009. The app was eventually open sourced as the team went to work on the ill-fated Google Wave, and Etherpad’s servers were shut down.

But Stypi thinks that there’s still a market for a lightweight, real-time collaborative text editor. And so they built a new one from the ground up (they didn’t use any of Etherpad’s code).

Stypi is about as straightforward to use as they come. Head to Stypi.com and you’ll immediately be thrust into a new document. You can edit it just as you would any other document, and you can invite new collaborators simply by sending them the URL (there isn’t a permissions system, you just need to click the link and you’ll immediately see the document).

The editor includes key features like a Playback mode, which will let you review how a document came to be, character by character. There’s real-time chat in the right side bar. And, since one common use-case for Etherpad was for programmers to collaborate on code, Stypi has integrated support for some programmer-friendly features, like syntax highlighting. My only gripe: the chat box displays each character to your collaborators as soon as you type them (like Wave did), which I’ve always found off-putting.

Of course, Google Docs now features real-time text editing, so why would anyone use Stypi instead? Cofounder Jason Chen says that the fact that Stypi is extremely lightweight is a big differentiator (which I agree with), and that Google Docs isn’t optimized for editing code.

Down the road Stypi has some more ambitious plans: it wants to let native applications like Photoshop sync changes between multiple users. The company has already built a plugin for popular text editor Vim that can do this, and Chen says they’ve laid the groundwork to let other applications sync as well using a small ‘helper’ app that’s currently built for the Mac and will be available on other platforms.