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July 24, 2007 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Faceoff -- the three founders of college social networking site ConnectU have accused Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their business plan and code. Tomorrow they face-off in a Boston courtroom. "It's a mélange of gossip about upper-crust Silicon Valley, allegations of old-school Ivy League skulduggery and an oddball cast of characters that ranges from precocious dot-com millionaires to aspiring Olympic athletes. In what other intellectual-property lawsuit are two of the plaintiffs a set of Harvard University-educated twins from Greenwich, Conn., with several international rowing championship medals under their belts? ...Despite the backstory's semblance to screenplay fodder, the outcome is anything but scripted, at least for now."
posted by ericb (31 comments total)

 
What is it, exactly, that the founders of ConnectU want?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:34 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is it, exactly, that the founders of ConnectU want?

All the popularity of Facebook, plus the profits and perhaps a not sucky down all the time website.

I've been watching this. As a 35 year old engineering student, facebook has been invaluable at helping keep track of what my friends are upto when the semester grind is in full swing. It does quite a lot right.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:42 PM on July 24, 2007


Zing!
posted by Jofus at 2:57 PM on July 24, 2007


It's Thad and Brad against Biff.
posted by chillmost at 3:01 PM on July 24, 2007


Rich people bicker. Film at 11.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:09 PM on July 24, 2007


In related news --

Is Facebook Worth $6 billion?

Facebook would consider a buy-out of $10 billion or more.
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on July 24, 2007


Would this court case explain why my Facebook feed has been acting so wonky the past few days?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:24 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


connectU wants to shut down Facebook, all of facebook's assets, and also want some damages ontop of that. And considering facebook is worth 1 billion, maybe 1.5, that's a lot.
posted by Stynxno at 3:47 PM on July 24, 2007


Jocks versus the nerd.
posted by runkelfinker at 3:54 PM on July 24, 2007


Oh please, $6billion plus? Zucks needs to sell out before M&A analysts correct their valuation models.
posted by geoff. at 4:06 PM on July 24, 2007


"When you're 19 or 20, and working on things with other college students in the absence of legal documents and as a fun project that has some business potential, there's a lot of messiness that can happen," Smith explained.

I think this is the crux of it, really. A friend of mine from college was the founder of collegehumor.com. He started it as a place to post silly pictures for his friends from high school to look at instead of having to email them all. Now, the company has been sold to InterActiveCorp at an estimated $20 million. They are having meetings with Ari Emmanuel, a.k.a. the model for Ari from Entourage, about doing consulting work on Hollywood college-oriented comedy scripts. And I doubt my friend or his cofounder had any inkling from the start that things would wind up quite like this.

Back when Zuckerberg and the kids bringing this suit against him were working on essentially a directory of Harvard students, I doubt any of them had a clue that their project would eventually become a serious and growing rival for the top social networking site on the planet, a Web 2.0 darling with an open application platform that other sites have been clamoring to develop for, and possibly worth $10 billion. These were kids with an idea, hacking together a simple webpage in between taking classes and trying to make out with people who taste like Busch Light.

If what these kids allege is true, it sounds like Zuckerberg did kind of screw them. If, however, they also have documents with their concepts described clearly on them, or some kind of proof that some of the code Zuckerberg had been working on for them was carried over into the original Facebook code, it seems like they have a fighting chance. Also, I am not a lawyer, so please strike the previous sentence from the record.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:16 PM on July 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


ConnectU has poked you! Poke back?
posted by wfrgms at 4:40 PM on July 24, 2007


$6B? That's a multiple of like 48 times earnings, and they have no assets except a fickle and fast moving user base. Do you know what kind of growth they'd need over the next few years to come close to the normal multiples for their industry? Try 50% revenue growth per year for six years straight.
posted by aubin at 4:42 PM on July 24, 2007


This sounds like the kind of case that will likely come down to evidence, as cobra_high_tigers suggests. I have no idea whether copying a business plan is actionable as an intellectual property suit, but if it were, McDonalds might be the only fast-food chain on the planet.

I believe that copying the "look and feel" of software as an infringement of IP went out the window when Windows was deemed not to have infringed Apple's GUI approach, so it may come down to the issue of whether any of the source code was stolen by Zuckerberg - and here, we are talking line-by-line copies of the exact code.

As college students working on the fly after hours, I am a bit skeptical as to whether or not they would have been following industry practices for source code storage & control, and nor would they necessarily have today decent historical backups or version control which would enable them to prove their point.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:46 PM on July 24, 2007


(ps - I'd guess that Zuckerberg owns the IP in the code anyway, unless they thought to set up a contract whereby he was employed by their little informal college organisation as a contractor, with all IP belonging to the organisation...)

stepping aside now so that people with current working knowledge of US IP law can comment...
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:54 PM on July 24, 2007


Seriously, can someone explain Facebook to me? I even have a relative that works there and I still don't get it. It's like a mini-internet on the internet, right? You make pages...that have to conform to certain templates or at least bureaucratic rules. You can leave message with people...just like email or message boards.

What's all the fuss?
posted by DU at 5:10 PM on July 24, 2007


They didn't have a contract, they didn't pay him to do the work...so they want to sue him for creating a better site?
posted by Hildegarde at 5:15 PM on July 24, 2007


What's all the fuss?

Try it again after you have made some friends. It makes all the difference.
posted by srboisvert at 5:21 PM on July 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


DU, it's a mini no-hassle personal site + popularity contest. Feature roll-outs have been consistent and enjoyable. It also did you the service of stalking the cute girls in your classes, which is a big plus. Because only people in your network could see it, you could put crap that you don't want Daddy to see on there. Also, a college email address, while not a panacea, weeds out the worst kind of idiot you see in youtube comments. A little.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:23 PM on July 24, 2007


Try it again after you have made some friends.

The Internet is a social networking site for people with no friends. I like that.
posted by DU at 5:26 PM on July 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


I have a facebook page for no other reason than to redirect to my personal and professional websites. Same thing for MySpace.

I have no idea what good those websites provide besides that. But that's probably because I'm an old fuddy duddy or something.
posted by strontiumdog at 5:30 PM on July 24, 2007


"Also, a college email address, while not a panacea, weeds out the worst kind of idiot you see in youtube comments."

Used to weed out, you mean.

All I can say is that, like Bill Gates, Zuckerberg is waaay far away from being a rags-to-riches type. Westchester, NY to Phillips Exeter, to Harvard. Plus the accusations of hacking @ Harvard (to which he responds "the information should have been public"?)

I'm not siding with either, I just don't commiserate with this Zuckerberg fellow.
posted by tmcw at 5:49 PM on July 24, 2007


Seriously, can someone explain Facebook to me? I even have a relative that works there and I still don't get it. It's like a mini-internet on the internet, right? You make pages...that have to conform to certain templates or at least bureaucratic rules. You can leave message with people...just like email or message boards.

Only just started poking around it myself. "Social networking" - think of dating sites, but with the dating element removed, or at least partially submerged amongst general interactions with existing friends, or with strangers you've found through common listed interests.

Otherwise, the dating site approach seems to apply: you lie about a bunch of personal details to make yourself seem as interesting, quirky, intelligent, rich, beautiful or fun as you can manage, then sit back & wait for people to come flocking to you. Meanwhile, you stalk around - messaging and trying to hook up with befriend others. You take some time out to try to find your nemesis / past loves / old school friends / work colleagues etc so you can see what they're up to or laugh at the outrageous lies they've told about themselves in their profiles. That seems to be about it, so far.

(what i wanna know is why the insistence on using real names, not intarwebs pseudonyms? as somebody with a name that i am certain is unique in the world, i have no desire to increase my real-name web presence beyond the googlewhack that currently exists. i've been lucky so far, but not as lucky as people with names like Joe Smith or Mary Jones. employers, colleagues, ex partners, psychos, nosey acquaintances etc would have a hard time finding them without more specific information identifying one out of a million Joes or Marys. on the other hand, ppl like me with unique or near-unique names run the risk of too much personal information - including comments by third parties over which you have no control - being too easily findable in the public domain...)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:51 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seriously, can someone explain Facebook to me? I even have a relative that works there and I still don't get it.

Take Myspace, then remove all the suck.

It's like a mini-internet on the internet, right? You make pages...that have to conform to certain templates or at least bureaucratic rules. You can leave message with people...just like email or message boards.

right, imagine an internet where every single person had the time, inclination, and skill to setup their own web page with password protected RSS feeds of everything that they might want their friends to know about. Wouldn't that be kind of cool? Well, that's what facebook is, except you don't have to get your friends to manually give you access.
posted by delmoi at 6:41 PM on July 24, 2007


The Internet is a social networking site for people with no friends. I like that.

Classic - me too.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 6:52 PM on July 24, 2007


MetaFilter: a social networking site for people with no friends
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:30 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


So I saw this on my friends iPhone today, and couldn't wait to get back here to say this:

I went to school with the Winkelvosses. There are only so many twins in greenwich, CT. Let alone the few preppy bastards who went to Bruinswick, a school which also had a member of the Bic fortune attending, and a few other wealthy Greenwich elites (I was not exactly in the same price bracket, but shared the first 4 digits of a zip code with them).

IIRC Tyler was the nicer of the two, but they didn't hang out in my limited circle of one. I am suprised that either of them knew how to use a computer (I say as the 1337 hax0r who compromised the school network before changing schools). Looking at the photo from the ctv.ca article, makes me realize I probably never would have thought of them again until today.

I realize these prior comments are probably a total derail, but my opinion based on my experience with the Winklevosses in the past is: They don't need the money, they are pissed they missed out on a good deal, but they can afford a decent lawyer, so they are going to try to make out the best they can from it.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:43 PM on July 24, 2007


Nice one UbuRoivas - I would add you on facebook, if I knew your real name.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:28 AM on July 25, 2007


So I saw this on my friends iPhone today, and couldn't wait to get back here to say this

Next time just post it to your Twitter. We're all subscribed.
posted by yerfatma at 7:42 AM on July 25, 2007


ConnectU Suit against Facebook Continues
"ConnectU has been given two weeks to amend its lawsuit against Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is accused of stealing ideas and source code."
posted by ericb at 6:43 PM on July 25, 2007


Everyone gets attacked once they have money. I think these people wait for payouts really.
posted by Okinawa at 1:16 AM on July 26, 2007


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