Facebook Disables ‘Find Friends Nearby’ Feature; Might Get Sued for Stealing the Idea
By on June 25th, 2012

Earlier today we reported that Facebook quietly rolled out the ‘Find Friends Nearby’ feature, which basically provided users a way to find Facebook users who are close to their location at that very moment. However, the feature has now been pulled back, and of course, that was done quietly too.

There was no official announcement about the release of the ‘Find Friends Nearby’ feature, although no one expected one, since Facebook has been releasing a number of new features without letting its users know about it. Not to forget the very recent change in updating user’s email id to @facebook.com without the permission of its users’.

The ‘Find Friends Nearby’ feature has now been removed (with less than 24 hours) and the URL – fb.com/ffn is no more accessible. According to an update by ABC News, Facebook stated that it was an experimental release and was intended for testing purpose only:

“This wasn’t a formal release – this was something that a few engineers were testing. With all tests, some get released as full products, others don’t. Nothing more to say on this for now – we’ll communicate to everyone when there is something to say.”

But my real concern is about Facebook engineer Ryan Patterson, who claims to have developed the ‘Find Friends Nearby’ feature in a comment on TechCrunch’s site. Ryan had to reveal so much information about the feature, yet Facebook says, “We’ll communicate to everyone when there is something to say.

Here’s the comment added by Ryan Patterson:

I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called ‘Friendshake’, we settled on ‘Find Friends Nearby’ for launch (the URL was a little bit of a homage to the previous iteration).

For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.

I don’t know if Facebook is aware of this comment, or has simply ignored it. Nevertheless, it is also possible that Facebook pulled back this feature, after a location-based app maker ‘Friendthem’ decided to sue Facebook for having knowingly steal their idea and ‘trademarked materials’.

An email from Charles Sankowich, CEO of Friendthem, to TheNextWeb claims that Facebook has stolen their idea, which Facebook calls it ‘Find Friends Nearby’. Here’s the email that TNW received:

I was amazed on Sunday to read that Facebook is blatantly stealing our idea with what they are calling, “Find Friends Nearby.”

Facebook engineer Ryan Patterson claims the feature was born at a hackathon as “Friendshake,” but we believe they simply stole trademarked materials of Friendthem.com.

More than two years ago we trademarked “Friendthem” and have had tremendous success and exposure with this concept. Even their language is similar to what has been on our website for year’s now – “Friendthem” is a location-based mobile app designed to help you make connections with people near you. Use the Friendthem app to follow up on missed connections for work and personal.

We are consulting attorneys and assuming this is true and expect to commence a lawsuit very shortly. One would think that Facebook would have learned to play fair after being through the mud previously with legal difficulties, but now they are doing it again.

We may not be billionaires but we are damn tough New York entrepreneurs, and we believe in this idea and will keep working to connect people.

Perhaps this is the main reason why Facebook had to pull their ‘Find Friends Nearby’ feature. Or, maybe it is serious about launching a feature something similar to ‘Friendthem’, but will the company, which claims that Facebook has stolen their idea stay put? Or, perhaps we may see Facebook ending up with an acquisition deal with ‘Friendthem’.

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Author: Joel Fernandes Google Profile for Joel Fernandes
Joel Fernandes (G+) is a tech enthusiast and a social media blogger. During his leisure time, he enjoys taking photographs, and photography is one of his most loved hobbies. You can find some of his photos on Flickr. He does a little of web coding, and maintains a tech blog of his own - Techo Latte. Joel is currently pursuing his Masters in Computer Application from Bangalore, India. You can get in touch with him on Twitter - @joelfernandes, or visit his Facebook Profile for more information.

Joel Fernandes has written and can be contacted at joel@techie-buzz.com.
 
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