Any big fish could have taken their client base without paying a dime; everyone from Skype to Computer Associates could have obsoleted them without even trying. Heck, Open Source IM packages like Pidgin could easily add a service like Etherpad and those boys would have labored for nothing.
If you don't like what I am saying, the next time you cash out, just know that I am just as happy for you :-)
I will have to repent and become a consumer activist: I will boycott products A/B tested on humans.
Etherpad ROCKED - I've spent a couple weeks now with Wave, used it for a bunch of projects, and every time I use it, I did so grudgingly, realizing that Etherpad was lighter, cleaner, and more elegant compared to Wave's all-in-one platform approach. Yes, it's true that I can insert YouTube Videos, Polling Systems, and even a freaking ChatServer into my WaveDocuments - but it always felt like more of a technology exercise than a useful use of an application.
Let's hope that the EtherPads can do for Wave, what the Mint Team will (hopefully) do for Intuit.