At the end of this week, EtherPad shuts down for good, taking user creations with it. The online word processor, whose parent company was acquired by Google last year, has not accepted user sign-ups for months now. But just in case you're one of those users who has not moved on, or is just now discovering EtherPad's strengths, there's good news: the service has been open source for the past five months. As a result, there are a handful of open-sourced clones that provide the same EtherPad experience with a few extra bells and whistles.
One thing to point out before going any further is that most of EtherPad's functionality can be found in Google's Wave product and, to a lesser extent, Google Docs. In fact EtherPad users got invites to use Wave, but the service remains in a private preview. Also, many of these services don't offer the same kind of privacy features you'll find in other online word processors.
1. MeetingWords offers the same EtherPad word processor you're probably used to. It can be used solo or with other writers. We got it to work just fine with six different people, all of whom were typing away alongside what I was writing, though the service promises that up to 32 simultaneous users can type at once. To get them there, you can just send out a link, which gave them full read/write access.
One thing to note about MeetingWords is that your docs are only saved for seven days from the last time you had them open, after which they'll be gone forever. It offers the same import and export features you'd find in Etherpad, so you can get your stuff before it disappears.
2. iEtherpad one-ups MeetingWords by offering resizable fonts as well as superscripting and subscripting. These might seem like small additions for a word processor, but keep in mind these are features that the original EtherPad never had. If you found EtherPad's stock formatting options a little lackluster, this is a nice step up.
3. Sync In uses the same core features of EtherPad but gives it a different skin. Along with its free service, there's also a pro tier, that for $2 per month (per user) gives teams a custom domain, per-note password protection, and a way to see all their notes in one place. There's also a search tool so you can find specific notes out of your entire library of work.
One really nice thing about Sync In is that it offers users a desktop app. This doesn't actually let you edit your notes on your desktop, but you can search, sort, and choose documents that you'd like to open up back in your browser.
4. TitanPad, like MeetingWords, is a pure EtherPad clone. It does all the same things MeetingWords does, as well as offering teams a way to map TitanPad notes to their own subdomain.
5. PiratePad is less of a personal word processor and more of a collective of shared EtherPad notes. You can use it to write private items, though the service has a built-in tagging system that lets you make these writings public and/or able to be edited by other users.
6. PrimaryPad is a version of EtherPad for educators, so it's not for business use, though there is a freebie public version that mimics the same features you'll find in many of the above editors. Paid educational users get things like support, password protection, and administrative controls.
These are just a few of the clones. A much more comprehensive list of open EtherPad projects can be found on Etherpad.org, which does not actually host its own EtherPad clone.
See also: Debating the power of Google's Wave