When I think of Facebook, I think of the telephone. Stay with me. Not only do they both provide means for networking and communication, their development was also subject to conspiracy. You see, back in the day, many laid claim to status of its inventor. Much like the Harvard graduates, Divy Narendra and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who claim that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea. Now they know how Antonio Meucci felt. What might have been the teletrofono
begs a familiar question; would Facebook have been as successful had it been named ConnectU? It's not just a question of semantics, but of marketing pursuits.
In 2003, a three Harvard juniors (Narendra and the Winklevosses) working on a social networking site, designed to connect students at ivy league universities at outset, hired a sophomore developer to write their code.
Soon after, the sophomore quit and developed a social networking site called Facebook. It was open to Ivy League schools, and gradually broadened its reach across other universities before opening its doors to the public at large.
The result was a successful, multi-million user offering -- and a lawsuit
Intellectual property rights aside, this case addresses issues of marketing
, conviction and maybe most importantly, not hiring others to do the tough work (at least, not without a good non-compete clause).
A good idea is only as good as its marketing, and no one can fault Facebook for its aggressive push in the social networking market. Yet, despite these endeavors, Facebook still trails MySpace in revenue and users.
The plaintiffs do not seek to bring Facebook down. Instead, and perhaps most advantageously, they simply want all rights to Facebook
. Maybe they are entitled to benefit from the success of their allegedly stolen idea, but is this really the best outcome? Why didn't ConnectU try to compete more aggressively with Facebook, like other sites? Can they really claim that their product would have been just as, or more, successful?
As many layers of this suit are peeled away and analyzed, eventually the dichotomy between designers and developers
will be scrutinized. The Web cannot exist without either of them, yet they are not often willing to work together.
I'd like to think that it highlights the need for an interdisciplinary skill set among those working in the industry. The end result is all about user experience
, which in turn, if successful in creating a positive one, will result in fame and fortune. Designers and developers do not work in silos, or shouldn't. Perhaps ConnectU would have been better off if they learned the skills to design both abstractly and realistically.
Maybe like the telephone, Facebook is the result of work done by many people, all worthy of recognition of their contributions to the field. Alexander Graham Bell merely patented the idea, having the funds and foresight to do so before anyone else. Meucci ultimately failed to develop his inventions commercially because of serious burns, lack of English and perhaps, less capable business skills. Minus the burns and language barrier, it seems as if history has repeated itself setting ConnectU adrift in familiar waters.