Facebook has just quietly rolled out a new feature for users to easily find friends nearby. In fact, that’s the name of the feature: “Find Friends Nearby”.
While the social networking giant hasn’t even officially launched the feature – although it can be accessed via http://fb.com/ffn – a company called Friendthem is now planning to sue Facebook over allegedly stealing the idea for the new feature.
Before going on to the lawsuit threat, let’s first discuss, what Find Friends Nearby is. The feature can be accessed by any mobile device on the link posted above. It can also be accessed through Facebook’s mobile app which is available on virtually every platform out there. There’s a version of the Facebook app for Android, for the iPhone, for Windows Phone, for Nokia devices and for BlackBerry devices.
Anyway, the feature works this way. After logging into Facebook and opening the feature either through the website or the Facebook mobile app, you’ll see other people who are nearby who also have the feature currently on.
Facebook envisions that this new feature will make it easier to connect with people you just met. It can also be abused by people with bad intentions but of course, that’s not what Facebook hopes. In fact, a Facebook engineer named Ryan Patterson commented on the TechCrunch article which scooped the new feature that:
“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.”
Now, Friendthem is saying that Facebook stole the idea for this since they knew of the idea of the app since February.
In a statement from Frienthem LLC – the company which made the Friendthem app – sent to members of the media, CEO Charles Sankowich says:
“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.”
Friendthem is an app that uses your Facebook account to find people around you. The App turns people you meet into Facebook friends. Friendthem lets you decide what you want to share. You can share your name, profile pic and hometown or nothing at all. The app also shows mutual friends with the person that are around you. The App is available on both the iOS and Android platform.
The company was given a trademark on “friendthem” two years ago and they also hold the rights to the trademarks “life happens when people connect”, “life happens when you connect”, and “you never know what a friend request can lead to”.
What do you think about this new Facebook feature? How do you think can it be abused? What do you think about this likely lawsuit? Tell us below.