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Court will hear tales of social networking allegations in Facebook vs. ConnectU

A Boston judge is expected to decide this week whether or not to proceed with a lawsuit alleging that the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, stole the idea for the social networking site from three former classmates at Harvard.

Specifically, the founders of ConnectU, which was originally called HarvardConnection, Divya Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevosss, claim that Zuckerberg stole the idea for the social networking site while he was recruited to develop a part of ConnectU.

The pending litigation originates from actions brought about in 2004. The lawsuit was refiled earlier this year on March 27.

Cameron Winklevoss has a record of 52 email exchanges and three meetings between his team and Zuckerberg, where the group discussed the ConnectU site.

Zuckerberg says that he voluntarily agreed to contribute six hours of coding for the ConnectU site, but denies that he had knowledge of it being a social networking system. Instead, he claims that he believed it to be a personal site to connect students, alumni and employers.

“I never really understood their product, but it was not a social networking site,” Zuckerberg said in a previous Stanford Daily story.

The lawsuit alleges that Zuckerberg intentionally delayed progress on his work for ConnectU by more than two months in order to give Facebook a jump for an earlier release. Facebook then launched in February, 2004 while ConnectU didn’t launch until May.

“It's sort of a land grab,” Tyler Winklevoss has said to the Boston Globe. “You feel robbed ... The kids down the hall are using it, and you're thinking, 'That's supposed to be us.' We're not there because one greedy kid cut us out.”

Representatives for Facebook said, “We do not comment on pending litigation,” while the founders of ConnectU were not immediately available.

The founders of ConnectU are now are pushing for U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock to shut down Facebook and give them control and profits of the website.

Facebook is expected to earn $125 million in ad revenue this year, and is worth more than $1 billion – a buyout figure presented, and later rejected, reportedly from Yahoo!

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Does anyone see the irony in this?
By Ksyder on 7/24/2007 4:10:05 PM , Rating: 5
Zuckerberg says that he voluntarily agreed to contribute six hours of coding for the ConnectU site, but denies that he had knowledge of it being a social networking system. Instead, he claims that he believed it to be a personal site to connect students, alumni and employers.

"I didn't know that it was a social networking site, but rather instead saw it as a way connect students, alumni..."

If someone can point out the difference I would love to hear it.

RE: Does anyone see the irony in this?
By omnicronx on 7/24/2007 4:22:07 PM , Rating: 2
If someone can point out the difference I would love to hear it.

Although you are right they are very similar, i would not consider a site put out for only the use of students or teachers for a particular school as a social networking website. Facebook was always designed to be used in broad scale, even if it was stolen, it is a totally different implementation of the same idea.

RE: Does anyone see the irony in this?
By creathir on 7/24/2007 4:35:32 PM , Rating: 4
Maybe now... but not always...

ConnectU and Facebook, at one point, where VERY similar.

Until about a year ago (maybe 2 years), Facebook was ONLY open to CERTAIN universities...

It was not a broad, wide reaching platform like it is today.

- Creathir

RE: Does anyone see the irony in this?
By JBird7986 on 7/24/2007 5:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
You're correct. Facebook started out as a connection for students of the nations elite universities (the Ivys, Duke, Stanford, etc.) and they've since expanded it, first to other universities, then high schools and now everyone. Each time they've done that, it's lost a bit of its uniqueness. I've been using it for quite a while now and each time they've expanded it, I've found myself using it less and less.

RE: Does anyone see the irony in this?
By AsicsNow on 7/24/07, Rating: -1
RE: Does anyone see the irony in this?
By Johnis on 7/24/2007 6:47:22 PM , Rating: 4
Facebook's own history says they started with Harvard, then the next month expanded to include Stanford, Columbia, and Yale. Sounds like elite schools to me. State schools were added later.

By KristopherKubicki on 7/24/2007 7:29:56 PM , Rating: 3
Yep I can confirm that.

By otispunkmeyer on 7/25/2007 3:57:16 AM , Rating: 2
its getting like myspace only without the annoying backgrounds and crappy music.

some peoples FB pages are an utter mess with loads of these "new" applications that keep coming out.

super poke, x-me, zombie, top friends lists, graffitti wall etc... theres just too much stuff, you have to actually hunt to find the bit you want, primarily a persons wall.

my inbox on there is full, daily, of random invites to use random and useless add-ons and programs. its annoying

people dont seem to realise that you can drag n drop all the different panels on your page to at least get some kind of functional, easy to read lay out either.

By omnicronx on 7/24/2007 4:13:34 PM , Rating: 3
Obviously more information is needed here but it sounds like even if they were making a social networking site with the original name of HarvardConnection, it is really going to be hard for them to prove their idea was nothing more than to connect students and staff of harvard university, nothing more.

Most good inventions are other peoples ideas made better, and it appears facebook took the idea but made it on a global scale (even though it was only originally available to students who attended university or college). In reality facebook is nothing more than a revamped myspace with pictures being the focal point. So in my view unless ConnectU was deliberately tampered with by the owner of facebook or if he was being paid for his services and did not provide them, he has doing nothing wrong as the idea was nothing new, and if anything was stolen it was directly from myspace.

I wonder if these kids are also suing for control of WEB2.0 because obviously they invented that too ;)

RE: weird
By Denigrate on 7/24/07, Rating: -1
RE: weird
By gramboh on 7/24/2007 4:44:10 PM , Rating: 2
The big advantage of Facebook is that the standard page interface cannot be edited, so you don't get idiots with flashing tiled backgrounds and autoplaying mp3's like you do with Myspace. This is a good feature if you are trying to market to a more mature target market. Although since opening up to anyone and allowing random applications, Facebook seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Still, it's the only social networking site I use because so many of my friends from different circles/times in my life are on it.

RE: weird
By slashbinslashbash on 7/25/2007 1:53:53 AM , Rating: 2
NOT a ripoff of MySpace. A *much* improved ripoff of Friendster.

RE: weird
By quickk on 7/25/2007 2:45:20 PM , Rating: 2
Al Gore never said that he invented the internet. What he said was: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the internet." This was said in a CNN interview in which Al Gore was talking about his role in moving legislation forward that allowed the internet to grow into its current form.

Even the actual inventors of the internet praise Al Gore for his contribution to making the internet what it is today.

For more information, look at this wikipedia page:

RE: weird
By Panurge on 7/24/2007 4:46:48 PM , Rating: 2
There's a reason they changed the name to ConnectU. They had plans to move it outside of Harvard.

On top of this, Facebook started in a similar manner. It was released to a small number of schools, possibly one to start with, and slowly expanded to other schools, and then finally the public.

There could be some degree of truth to the litigation because of this similarity.

Call me "The Napster"
By chucky2 on 7/24/2007 10:55:17 PM , Rating: 4
The Italian Job

RE: Call me "The Napster"
By jon1003 on 7/25/2007 1:56:53 AM , Rating: 2
There's no way any small startup would have the money to rollout a site to more than one school at a time due to the server infrastructure that needs to be in place, and testing that needs to be done. All these social networking sites are just based on the same idea of a freaking social networking site anyways, unless facebook stole design ideas from them. There were plently of soc net sites before fb that didn't let you change the background, etc like myspace. Why did it take them this long to say anything anyway?

RE: Call me "The Napster"
By jamesbond007 on 7/25/2007 2:31:12 AM , Rating: 2
Why waste money towards legal fees if the project would fail on its own? They see it becoming big, so now others want a piece of the pie.

That's my guess...

RE: Call me "The Napster"
By kelmon on 7/25/2007 2:53:28 AM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the exact same thing. Seems almost spooky that not only did someone else see the parallel with the film but also decided to comment it as well. Good on you, sir.

By cochy on 7/24/2007 4:49:24 PM , Rating: 4
Did Zuckerberg sign any papers? Did ConnectU have any patents?

I'm sorry but if there are no agreements, too bad too sad.

And they want to shut down Facebook and take ownership of it? Absurd.

RE: Rediculous
By rdegler on 7/24/2007 5:22:39 PM , Rating: 3
I read about this case awhile ago (4-5 months). I think the plaintiffs have a case based on the interviews I read of them and Jeffery Z.

I appears they had an idea and asked Jeffery to write code, he accepted and began working. While each state has different laws on contracts, there are three basic requirements 1) an offer, 2) acceptance of the offer, and 3) reasonable expectation that both parties can deliver.

I see that all three conditions were met. If you read the interviews Jeffery z talks about how he delayed and got his own done. But he insists the idea and code were different.

This is similar to the Mambo case. They wrote code for a company and then the company said that the code was being used in Mambo. Mambo died and Joomla was born. The Mambo site and name were transfered to the plaintiffs.

I think facebook with either become jointly owned, lost by Jeffery Z, or the plaintiffs will get a settlement.

However, I have only read three articles on this case, NOT listen to the entire case with smooth lawyers working on the presentation.

By Future145 on 7/24/2007 9:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
I dont think a few email and a promise will stand in court. I mean ideas are stolen all the time but its usally who get to it first. Unless there is a patent or copyright on it first which i dont think there is. if im wrong please say so.

RE: Ideas
By themadmilkman on 7/24/2007 11:57:18 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on exactly what was contained in those emails and that promise, but it may very well be that a valid contract was formed. Remember, contracts don't have to be written or formal. There simply has to be a meeting of the minds, with an offer, acceptance, and valuable consideration given.

RE: Ideas
By ezacharyk on 7/25/2007 9:22:00 AM , Rating: 2
But if they have no signed contract, then he was in no position to keep his promise.

Also, if you have someone who agreed to work for six to eight hours on something, would you wait three months for him to finish? I wouldn't.

Sounds to me that these people put too much faith in the word of someone else to fulfill a word of mouth agreement.

I hope they slam Facebook
By azrael201 on 7/25/2007 11:53:32 AM , Rating: 2
the whole social networking online has been done so many times and never took off until it found its right niche. Like someone else said I think Friendster was the first, and so many people started making their own version. Facebook just had the formula right.

now if that coveted formula was someone else's idea in the works...that should be something like intellectual property although there were no patents. Anyways this will probably go to a huge settlement, complete control of the company is a bit out of hand. Facebook is going down down hill anyways. Time for GoogleSpace to rear its ugly head and capitalize on its large email userbase.

RE: I hope they slam Facebook
By Future145 on 7/25/2007 8:24:35 PM , Rating: 2
nah, myspace will buyout facebook and take over the world using social networks to brainwash people

What about...
By Polynikes on 7/25/2007 12:14:03 PM , Rating: 2
What about intellectual property? If they didn't copyright or patent the idea prior to Facebook going live, then it's not theirs to "win" back with a lawsuit.

I don't care if you can prove you had the same idea before them, that's not how the law recognizes ownership of intellectual property.

By Eris23007 on 7/25/2007 2:35:10 PM , Rating: 2
Where's patentman or patentguy (or whatever his nick is) to explain what the law ACTUALLY says about a case like this, where it's implied contracts (and all verbal / email, nothing written in the form of a contract)...

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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