Facebook STOP copying from Startups

Two days ago, Mashable reported that facebook is testing out a new feature called “Related Photos”. Read their coverage here: http://mashable.com/2010/05/28/facebook-related-photos/.

With this supposed innovation, facebook will now start showing other photos of people who are face-tagged in a photo next to it. The application feature addition is designed to drive users to explore additional photos that may be of interest based on the photo they’re currently viewing, thereby further personalizing the experience (and increasing page views).

Just to set the record straight, we have had this feature ( and a lot more ) at http://www.lifeblob.com for over a year now and facebook has blatantly copied it. Every time you upload a photo on lifeblob, a recommendation engine not only looks at the face tags, but also the other information associated wtih your photo to show you photos that are closely related around it.So when you upload your graduation day photos, we discover other photos of your graduation day and show it next to your photo. What facebook has done is picked up this idea and launched a simple version of it that only uses face tags. Bravo!!

To see the similarity of the features, look at the screenshots posted side by side below, the first one from lifeblob and the second one from facebook.

Lifeblob Related PhotosFacebook Related Photos

Notice the similarity? First facebook copied from friend feed, then they copied from twitter and now they have not even spared copying ideas from startups like lifeblob. With the changes in patenting law, it is hard for companies like ours to get pure software patents anymore. And even if we did have a patent on this, a startup like ours would still not have the wherewithal to drag facebook to the court of law for infringing on our intellectual property.

But what we can do is to publicly expose the dirty game that facebook is playing and how they are blatantly copying innovative features from startups. For this purpose, I have setup a facebook page ( to beat the lion in its den ) where I would encourage everyone to come and express their opinion and also share similar incidents that may have happened with them in the past.

Please spread the word and like this page ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/Facebook-STOP-copying-from-Indian-Startups/128733897152335 ) to express your solidarity and stop facebook from blatantly copying from startups.

19 thoughts on “Facebook STOP copying from Startups”

  1. interesting…do you have patent on this recommendation engine. Recommendation engines are not new. Is lifeblob photo sharing feature copied from flickr?

  2. Though I understand the frustration that lifeblob may be going through..but as a user I don’t want features to get fragmented across different websites. So if I use facebook a lot more than I use lifeblob, then I want good stuff to be available at facebook itself.
    I think, the market mechanism to reward innovators is the patent licensing model. So if lifeblob had thought that this feature is so valuable to their existence or is a key differentiator then they should have gone ahead and patented it.

  3. @demon – Unfortunately, we do not have a patent on the recommendation engine. Recommendation engines are not new, but the concept of navigating between photos through relations around it is something we have been working on since 2007.

    To your second point, we started off by building a social timeline service that would allow people to navigate through relations in a timeline based format. As we listened to feedback from our users ( who felt that the timelines were harder to navigate ), we decided to simplify the feature by converting it into a recommendation engine that would show related photos around your photo.

  4. @paresh – I understand and appreciate your point of view. However, there are other ways to have these features consolidated around the social network of your choice, eg: a facebook app. Infact we did have one but we are not maintaining it anymore because of frequent facebook api changes.

    Regarding the patent, it is very hard to get a pure software patent these days. Plus, even if we did have a patent, we neither have the bandwidth, nor the wherewithal to fight a case against facebook to prove “prior art”.

    Anyway, the point of this blog post is not to get facebook to stop the launch of this feature. The point is to get acknowledgement and credit for a mechanism to navigate through realtions, something we have been working on for the past 3 years.

  5. Pranav,

    I have had total respect for you as an entrepreneur – but I have to say the way that you have put this issue forward has made a dent in that.

    I know it must be easy to hide under the collective noun of “Indian startups”. My logical side is gasping for breathe at the sheer notice of the title of this post.

    Is there evidence that there is a trend that people are copying out of Indian Startups?

    Is there more than one occurence? Where? When?

    Do you realize the damage you will cause – if in forums like Hacker news, someone starts asking pointed questions about what the Indian Startup community has accomplished and makes it a collective war? Or is that what you are silently hoping for?

    I am sure this is giving you a nice traffic spike, but I guarantee you its short lived. Live it while it lasts. You definitely lost two points, in my book.

  6. Vijay,

    I see your point and really appreciate you posting your candid thoughts.

    For starters, let me admit that I did not think enough about the repercussions of using the phrase “Indian startups” while I was writing this post. The intent was never to create a community war and as a corrective measure, I have removed this phrase from the title and everywhere in the post.

    The intent behind writing this post was solely to bring forth a very valid point of facebook copying a feature that lifeblob has had for over a year and let the world know about it. I’m glad my oversight did not cause a community war.

    Thanks,
    Pranav

  7. Much Appreciated Pranav. You guys are a smart team, what doesnt kill you will only make you stronger.

    One thing I notice is that while they are copying a feature, you guys seem to have a better relative pictures algorithm. Hopefully that will find its due credit.

    I doubt facebook will stop the release of a feature cause of this – given that they dont even care much about an entire community raging against their privacy policies, but hope you guys reinvent yourselves through this.

  8. Pranav, please remove the word “Indian” from “Indian startups” in your FB page as well.

  9. Ridiculous to blindly accuse Fb. Ridiculous at best. I wholesomely share Vijay’s views about Lifeblob and you, Pranav.

  10. @Ab – Vijay’s issue was with the use of phrase “Indian startups”, not with the facebook accusation and I have acknowledged and corrected that.

    With regard to the facebook accusation:
    a) The feature is live on lifeblob and not yet live on facebook
    b) I have included screenshots in my post that you can compare

    The proofs are there for you to see – why do you think this is a blind accusation?

  11. Well Pranav,you still have a that little facebook page that declares “Stop copying from Indian Startups”…When are you going to rename that?

  12. @Arvind – I would already have renamed it, but can’t find a way to do that. Any pointers on how to rename a facebook page?

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