Zimki closure shows the perils of hosted web platforms

A couple of days ago, a low-key posting on the Zimki blog announced the closure of the service:

We regret to inform you that the Zimki service is to be withdrawn and therefore will no longer be available from 24 December 2007. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause…There are no plans to opensource Zimki…We hope that Zimki has helped to increase your knowledge and understanding of the possibilities that utility computing and an online application framework can bring.

Zimki is a platform for online applications, and boasted rapid development, use of a familiar language (Javascript), fault-tolerance and scalability through use of a hosted platform:

There was also this claim in the documentation:

Zimki itself will be released as open-source software soon freeing you from fears of lock-in that having only a single-provider may cause.

Apparently this was a promise that counted for nothing. Anyone who seriously committed to Zimki has some rapid rethinking and migration to do. Zimki simply advises its users to remove their data and applications from its platform before it closes for ever in a few months’ time.

Well, there were plenty of warning signs. In July, parent company Canon Europe announced that it would cease to invest in the project – this Reg story has the details. But it strikes me that the Zimki story is thought-provoking for anyone contemplating a move to hosted applications. The concept makes huge sense, provided that the platform you choose does not run into problems beyond the control of its users. Just how big and financially stable does the provider have to be, in order to reduce that risk to reasonable proportions?