Vincent Massol has been kind enough to step up at the last minute as a presenter at the Valtech Days. His talk was about XWiki, a tool he is working on with his team at XWiki.com (he also hold a session during the Open Space Technology part). Also in the room was Ludovic Dubost, the CEO of XWiki.com.
XWiki was originally “just” a powerful wiki, best compared to Confluence (both are written in Java), except that Confluence is closed-source (it does have strong ties with the open-source community, though). It has now evolved into a platform for developing small applications, not unlike Lotus Notes. Essentially, it provides a generic database schema, plus development tools (including some integration into Eclipse).
The applications so created are supposed to be simple, but some that are already in use are rather impressive. They include a project management tool (Chronopolys), an agent that watches sales (BestVentes) and various sites for established brands such as Elle.
I asked how XWiki was different from Lotus Notes. Ludovic Dubost admitted he admired Lotus Notes (more than can be said of many people that have used it), but he believed that it was limited by its support of email. His view is that Lotus Notes will never reach proper collaboration between users because it is putting all its energy (and infrastructure) into supporting email. XWiki, instead, emerged from the principle that everything can be changed by many people.
I must say that I had not anticipated this evolution in wikis, but it makes sense to me. After all, sharing and modifying text is just one way of collaborating. I am glad, though, that XWiki seems to be keeping things really simple (supposedly, one could start with creating a simple form in a wiki page). That said, I hope I will never see ads for people that know how to develop xwiki applications. I still remember job offers from a few years ago for writing Lotus Notes applications (these offers were targeted to students of marketing and sales, for some reason), which seemed like a dead-end career.