I’m guessing this part of the EtherPad FAQ may be updated soon…
Doesn't Google Docs already do this?
Google Docs is a suite of products that do many things, from word processing to spreadsheets to document management. One thing that Google Docs does not do is real-time collaborative text editing. We think this is an important use case, so we built EtherPad with real-time collaboration as the focus.
For example, with Google Docs it takes about 5 to 15 seconds for a change to make its way from your keyboard to other people's screens. Imagine if whiteboards or telephones had this kind of delay! In contrast, the EtherPad infrastructure is built to carry your every keystroke at the speed of light, limited only by the time it takes electrons to travel over a wire (such as an "ethernet" cable).
EtherPad stacks up favorably in other ways as well:
- Google Docs are cumbersome to share with other people. It requires sending an email, and all collaborators must have a Google Docs account. With EtherPad, you just copy and paste a link, no emails or accounts required.
- Google Docs does not highlight who typed what, so with more than 2 editors, things get chaotic and confusing very quickly. EtherPad makes things clear by highlighting each author's contributions with a unique background color.
- One of the most basic operators for editing text is "undo." In Google Docs, while collaborating, you lose undo history whenever someone else makes a change. EtherPad supports infinite undos and ensures that every operation is forever undo-able, even in the presence of other editors.
Of course, EtherPad is a tool for a specific purpose, and depending on your needs, Google Docs may still be a suitable option for working together on documents. But for real-time collaboration, EtherPad beats Google Docs hands down.