Facebook in legal face off with ConnectU
Social networking sites are getting ready to do battle once more -- but this time, they are swapping the internet for the court room.
Relative new kid on the block Facebook is fighting to stay open for business after a lawsuit was filed in the US alleging its creator stole the idea for the site.
Founders of the rival social networking site ConnectU have brought the suit in the US claiming that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them after they asked him to help finish some work on the software and database. The action alleges fraud, copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets.
The lawsuit is seeking to shut down Facebook and have the company handed over to the founders of ConnectU -- brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narenda. According to the suit, the three ConnectU founders began developing their Harvard social networking site in December 2002, drafting in Zuckerberg in November 2003 to help them finish the software. However, the suit alleges that Zuckerberg never finished the software, and instead launched his own site, Thefacebook.com, in February 2004. ConnectU didn't open its virtual doors until May 2004.
Both networks do have some similarities. For example, they originally were aimed at college students, allow users to create their online profiles with pictures, personal details and personal information, and give users the chance to create networks of people who share similar interests, jobs or went to the same school.
However, Facebook has built up a user base of some 31 million, compared to the 70,000 for ConnectU. Facebook has also attracted some high profile interest, with internet giant Yahoo making a USD1 billion offer for Facebook, which was subsequently rejected by the firm.
Facebook has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the social networking scene, taking on established giants such as MySpace and Bebo. The firm recently launched its Facebook Platform that opened up the social networking site to third party developers.
Already more than 85 applications have been built for Facebook, including photo slide shows, an application to send video messages to friends within the site, a music recommendation service and a music player. Heavyweights such as Microsoft and Amazon.com have also got involved with Facebook Platform.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg denies ConnectU's allegations and has asked the court to dismiss the action. Although Facebook is keeping tight lipped on the matter, court papers filed claim that there is no evidence to support ConnectU's "broad brush" allegations. The hearing takes place on Wednesday in Boston.