PBwiki, launched in 2005, headquartered in San Mateo, CA, provides wiki hosting with over 500,000 wikis hosted (more pages than the English language version of Wikipedia).  PBwiki also provides knowledge management, project management, collaboration and other business workflow services.  Basic functionality for public users is free, additional features are available according to a fee schedule.  Organizations pay on a per user basis.

Face 1: Market Focus

This wiki hosting, file sharing, and collaborative page editing service offered to government, business, academic, and personal users.  Testimonials reflect use by US corporations(RMC Vanguard Mortgage), international businesses (Deloitte, Wal-Mart), Universities (DePaul), educators in the K1-12 system, and the general public users. 

The company represents that 1/3 of the Fortunate 500 are customers and also claims the FDA and Facebook as notable customers.  This breadth of market focus also affects the face of the buyer.

Face 2: Types of Offerings

The offering is consists of both infrastructure and service.  The infrastructure consists of the application software, data-housing server, and predefined templates.  The service consists of training, 24 hour a day product support, and customization.

Face 3: Who is the Buyer?

The buyer varies with the level of utilization.  Public users can be buyers and pay on the basis of features.  Academic and business users can buy directly and pay on the basis of the number of users.  Whether they buy is a user, in an IT function, or management function would be influenced by the use of the wiki and the number of users.

PBwiki also differentiates between buyers in terms of target market and niches in the target market.  The academic market is defined in classroom, library, campus, and district/university niches.  The business market is defined in project management, intranet, extranet, public communication, and enterprise niches.  The public market is not segmented.

Face 4: Global Markets

The site is published in English and available on the internet.  Hence the global market consists of wired Anglophone countries and markets with quality internet service and English language skills.

Face 5: Development of the Market

The accessibility suggests that the market supports export and as there are competing product offerings there is substitution.  Substitution of imports may occur for reasons of US dollar pricing and language.

Face 6: Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

This product works well with well developed (classroom) learning systems.  As there are competing product offerings (moodle) that are implemented in organizations (Univerisites), the offering may also compete with imposed learning technology.  Though there is no evidence of this on the site, the offering may also substitute for forms of learning through the digital distribution of multimedia content and collaborative functionality.


Disclosure: I have used PBwiki to complement face-to-face teaching and in defiance of IT imposed Moodle.  The functionality that I used was within the free service provided. 


1 davidp { 09.19.08 at 3:38 pm }

This type of tiered service arrangement is a winner for the reasons you cite, Marc.

The idea of empowering instructors is only going to grow. So, providing functional tools at no, low or reasonable cost has got to be popular. Clearly this company has paying customers for more structured and branded instances.

Yes, there are substitutions in this market space, and Ning http://www.ning.com comes to mind.

Each of the freeish tools in the market space has a level of functionality that seems to appeal to particular end goals. PBWiki is strong at organizing content and collaboration about the content. Ning is good with the more communicative aspects of community building. There are other tools like PBWiki that have different appeal to distinct niche markets, with instructors being one of those markets.

I’ve also used PBWiki for what I consider short-term, ad hoc collaborative activities. For more established and locally-hosted (licensed) instances of collaborative document development, Confluence is another option.

I can’t help focusing on your final statement, though – the PS. I think there is a latent rebellion simmering about overly managed IT services in the academic realm, and it has only shown glimmers of presence to date.

However, as more global software applications emerge from the likes of Google, the pressure is bound to grow.

Thanks for this analysis.

2 Marc Kampschuur { 09.19.08 at 4:26 pm }


How do you keep up with the industry? Genuine question – doesnt matter what we post on, you guys know whats out there.

The problems I encountered with IT imposed solutions is five different points of contact depending on the functionally/issue you want to discuss, migration from server to server with related maintenance issues pushed down to the user and a lot of trouble shooting pushed down to the user. Hence if I was going to do the work anyway, rather do it with less frustration and pick both platform and infrastructure that is user friendly and controllable. PB wiki offered stable and accessible infrastructure and it worked.

From an organizational perspective think this type of response poses risks – who is doing what (unmonitored) where (off site) with what (appropriate?) … all of which reflects on the organization.

The culture within academia also seems fairly autonomous and bipolar – people who lecture and maybe use a blackboard and people who are innovators – each off on their own.

From the cube / pitch perspective, makes identifying market and buyer interesting. From a couple of the analysis, seems that support is a key component of the offerings.

Thank you for your comments and referral, will check out Ning. Cheers, Marc

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