I've been both dreading and looking forward to the day when I could say we have more competitors than just Opera Unite. On the one hand competition is always scary, because competitors might take all your customers and leave you starving... but on the other hand, if you have no competitors, then one inevitably wonders whether your product solves a problem nobody really cares about.
Well, people do care and today a competitor launched: Showoff
Showoff's launch was covered on Hacker News and stayed on the front page for hours. As I write this, it's still sitting there, generating traffic and comments. I took part in the discussions, which then led to PageKite being included in this article on ReadWriteWeb.
And that's our second main-stream tech media event!
Hooray for competition!
Showoff and localtunnel are, from a technical point of view, very similar solutions. They both build upon the solid foundations of SSH port forwarding, both are (at least partially) written in Ruby, and both focus entirely on the web. Both look pretty easy to use.
PageKite differs in that it is written in Python and has almost no dependencies (doesn't require SSH), which makes it by far the easiest option for Windows users, and also makes it attractive to those Linux and OS X users who haven't yet ventured into the world of Ruby development.
PageKite is also the only of the three that attempts to support advanced features:
We are also very proud of our redundant, globally distributed network of front-ends and our fault-tolerant infrastructure design, proud of our focus on privacy and proud that all our core technology is open source and has been from the start.
PageKite is probably a little bit cheaper than Showoff, but the pricing structure is different enough that it's impossible to say for sure. It probably depends on what you are using it for.
In short, we feel pretty confident we can compete on technical grounds.
However, it is also pretty clear that we can learn a thing or two from Showoff about good marketing, presentation and focus! We got some good comments related to that in the comments on Hacker News. As a result, we are already thinking hard about how we can further improve this website and our user experience: simplify, simplify, simplify... :-)