Judge Rejects Power.com’s Countersuit Against Facebook

A judge in the Northern California District Court has thrown out the countersuit Power.com levied against Facebook over the summer. Power.com filed its countersuit in July, alledging that, among other things, Facebook is unlawfully withholding the data that users own (as stated in Facebook’s own ToS) and is stifling competition by refusing to allow third party services.

Power.com is a service that allows users to aggregate all of their social network activity into a central hub, and has done so through methods that Facebook says violate its terms of use. Facebook filed suit against the company at the beginning of this year for scraping data and storing user credentials. A week later there were reports that the two parties were near a settlement, but that clearly didn’t happen.

The judge attributes the dismissal to a lack of concrete complaints and factual allegations in Power.com’s countersuit. We’ve embedded the full document below.

Power.com has given us the following statement, saying that they will continue the case after fine tuning their arguments:

Earlier in the case Judge Fogel granted Power’s motion to require Facebook to provide a more detailed pleading of its claims. Yesterday’s order essentially does the same thing with respect to Power’s counterclaims and affirmative defenses. The Court determined that Power’s pleading did not provide enough detail with respect to the fair use defense and other affirmative defenses, and also with respect to the counterclaims under the unfair competition laws. The Court gave Power 30 days, until November 21, 2009, to re-plead their defenses and counterclaims with more detail. Power intends to do so.

This is a routine type of order that often occurs in the early stages of litigation, where the parties dispute the sufficiency of the pleadings in terms of the level of factual detail that is provided. Power is confident that it will be able to amend its pleading within 30 days to satisfy the Court’s concerns.

Power’s Answer and Counter-Complaint contains a seven and a half page “Introduction and Background” narrative untethered to any specific claim. The claims themselves each consist of a conclusory recitation of the applicable legal standard and a general “reference [to] all allegations of all prior paragraphs as though fully set forth herein.” Facebook argues persuasively that this form of pleading does not enable the Court to surmise which facts in the introductory narrative support which claims, if in fact they do. Moreover, antitrust claims require a “higher degree of particularity in the pleadings.”


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Facebook Merges ‘Highlights’ Back Into Your News Feed

Facebook has just announced that it is beginning to roll out a modified version of its homepage that incorporates the ‘Highlights’ section into the News Feed. You’ll now be able to jump between two different versions of the feed: the Live Feed, which displays your friends’ updates in real-time, and the News Feed, which displays the top items your friends have posted over the last few days (these generally are the most commented on/Liked stories).

The new design is a compromise between the ‘old’ News Feed, which used algorithms to present stories Facebook thought you’d find interesting, and the feed Facebook rolled out back in March that consisted of a Twitter-like stream of recent updates. Since this year’s redesign Facebook has used the ‘Highlights’ section at the right hand side of the screen to present items you may have missed, but this was never an ideal solution: for one, you couldn’t see your friends’ comments on these posts, and the small space afforded to Highlights made it easy to pass over.

Today’s change will make the Highlights section redundant, so it will be removed (everything below it will also be shifted higher on the page, which means the ‘Birthdays’ and ‘Events’ sections will no longer be buried). Facebook’s post also notes that the News Feed will include more events, including when your friends become fans of Pages, add friends, or RSVP to an event.

The change has been a long time coming — reports about the merging of Highlights back into the feed emerged as far back as June.

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Sean Parker: Twitter/Facebook Will Soon Dominate The Web — Not Google.

16432v1-max-250x250Sean Parker, a managing partner at Founder’s Fund, gave an interesting talk today at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. The key to it is simple: Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and eBay will dominate the web going forward. One company of note that won’t? Google.

Why? Parker believes we’re shifting from the first phase of the Internet, which was dominated by what he calls “information services” These are companies like Google and Yahoo. But next up to dominate the web will be the “network services” like Facebook and Twitter, he believes.

To be clear, he thinks Google will stay huge and relevant, but it’s dominance will go down because collecting data is less valuable than connecting people, he said.

He went on to talk a bit about the social networking space, which is significant because he help found Facebook.

Parker noted that data portability is a red herring. Data portability is easily solved by converters and adapters, he said. Facebook has of course been criticized for being much more closed with regards to its data than many of the other social networks. In Parker’s view, it would seem that not only is this not a bad thing, but it will help them dominate, because it will force other users to join them. That’s something that I would bet a lot of people believe, but it’s interesting to hear someone like Parket be ballsy enough to say that.

He went on to say that Friendster was not a fad, it failed because of the failure to scale, not because of poor product execution. So how did MySpace fall? It was a “systematic product failure,” said Parker. And Facebook was smart to launch with the college campus networks. “College students didn’t have MySpace accounts, so we went for them,” Parker said. It was all about tightly spun networks at colleges, and that helped Facebook spread naturally and virally.

Parker also talked a bit about why it’s not always the best products that win. Craigslist, MySpace, AIM and eBay all were poorly designed or executed, yet they did well. This was because of their networks were strong enough to overcome their bad products, Parker said.

Also of note was that one of Parker’s slides talked about the few networks Google does own, like Orkut. That slide seemed to imply that Foursquare is owned by Google, which of course is not true. Google did buy Foursquare co-founder’s Dennis Crowley’s former location company, Dodgeball, but they have since killed it. So in Parker’s view, Google is actually weaker than he thinks.

Update: Parker has written to to let us know that he did, in fact, mean Dodgeball rather than Foursquare.

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Facebook Redesigns Mobile Touch Site

facebook_mobile_oct09b.jpgAs iPhone and Android users, it's easy to forget that Facebook hasn't been fully optimized for all touchscreen phones. Many of us sit here from the comfort of our sleek mobile applications, never knowing the drudgery that Palm owners have to face as they type in URLs to open their favorite services. Well Palm owners, you're in luck. As of today, Facebook has redesigned its mobile site for touch devices (x.facebook.com and iphone.facebook.com) and launched a new domain name at touch.facebook.com.


facebook_mobile_oct09a.jpgAccording to AllFacebook, the company is looking to offer a consistent user experience across all devices, regardless of how Facebook is accessed. While this is a stopgap measure until Facebook applications are built for emerging touchscreen phones, the new site is a much better interface than the standard mobile iteration. In the past, mobile site users tolerated one long stream of notifications, messages, friend requests and invitations. For a power Facebook user, the single stream display was easily overwhelming. By improving upon the mobile experience, the company is removing the barrier to photo uploads, notes and status messages for these users.

In January, 20 million people were accessing Facebook on their mobile phones. By September, that number had more than tripled to a whopping 65 million mobile users. As the company continues to upgrade the mobile user experience, the rate of content generation appears poised for unlimited growth. To test the redesigned mobile site visit touch.facebook.com.


Four short links: 22 October 2009

  1. Eight Billion Minutes Spent on Facebook Daily -- you weren't using that cognitive surplus, were you?
  2. How We Made Github Fast -- high-level summary is that the new "fast, good, cheap--pick any two" is "fast, new, easy--pick any two". (via Simon Willison)
  3. Isaac Mao, China, 40M Blogs and Counting -- Today, there are 40 million bloggers in China and around 200 million blogs, according to Mao. Some blogs survive only a few days before being shut down by authorities. More than 80% of people in China don’t know that the internet is censored in their country. When riots broke out in Xinjiang province this year, the authorities shut down internet access for the whole region. No one could get online.
  4. Congress Endorses CS Education as Driver of Economic Growth -- compare to Economist's Optimism that tech firms will help kick-start economic recovery is overdone.

Flickr Adds People Tagging à la Facebook [Digital Photos]

One of the better features in Facebook (and now both Picasa and iPhoto) is people-tagging—allowing users to identify who's in a picture by mousing over the image. Starting today, Flickr's joined in the fun.

Using this feature, you can now add any Flickr member to a photo, find photos of friends, and keep an eye on photos you're in. All you've got to do to add a contact to one of your photos is click the new Add a person link under the People in this photo header on the right, then type in the username, actual name, or email address of the Flickr contact you want to tag. Not sure you like the idea?

You can set your preferences for who can add you to photos and who can add people to photos you've shared. You can even determine on a photo-by-photo basis if you'd like to be featured - after all, everyone has a bad hair day now and then. If you do remove yourself from a photo, only you will be able to add yourself back in. If you decide that People in Photos isn't your thing, you can remove yourself entirely.

Seems like a nice update for Flickr users, and one long overdue.

Web 2.0 Summit: V For Van Natta: The Socialization Of Content

10694v5-max-250x250MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta is here at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. He sat down with Federated Media’s John Battelle to answer some questions about his company.

Van Natta clearly had a strategy for this Q&A: To say “the socialization of content” as much as possible. That’s the direction he wants to lead the social network in as it attempts to prove it can exist in a world where Facebook has passed it as the dominant social network.

So what does the catchphrase mean? Van Natta thinks MySpace has a unique position on the web because of its music deals with all the major labels and the independent ones. And because it’s a much more open network than Facebook, he believes this will work to MySpace’s advantage in helping people find content.

And that’s why Van Natta had not one, but two announcements today surrounding MySpace Music. The first is a dashboard that artists can use to see analytics about who is visiting their page and listening to their music on the network. The second is a single hub for all music video content. (We covered both more in-depth here) Again, this is possible because of MySpace’s unique music deals with the labels, Van Natta stressed.

Van Natta wouldn’t comment on the talk that Google is unhappy with the major ad deal the signed in 2006 and is set to expire next year. He did say that MySpace has always been great at monetizing its site and losing any one deal would not be a major blow.

Earlier today, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s keyword was “sharing.” That’s essentially what Van Natta is saying too, but he’s betting that his more open network and strong media ties will differentiate it.

Find the full Q&A below (paraphrased):

JB: So, did you do a deal with Twitter (laughs)? What are you doing with MySpace?

OV: What we’re doing with MySpace is what me and Rupert first talked about it. We think it can be the next generation of digital distribution of content on the web. It’s happening through people and not through portals. It’s the “socialization of content.”

JB: To the crowd: How many people have a MySpace page (maybe 20%), how many have a Facebook Page? (everyone). So how is MySpace different, why use it?

OV: We think we’re different from Facebook because you don’t have to have a real connection to use it. Maybe you use it to discover music. Music tastes get influenced by your friends. Also movies. These are touchstones in relationships. You shouldn’t have to know them in the socialization of content.

JB: MySpace Music is a very big deal. How is music playing into this strategy? Does that box competition out?

OV: Music is a great example of our socialization of content. Everyone loves music across all demographics. Our music label relationships are unique and that gives us content that other networks don’t have. MySpace is the only place you can go today to stream all the music you want. And every band out there today has a presence on MySpace.

And today we’re launching an Artist Dashboard (more on that here). This is our first example of our integration with iLike, the deal we recently closed. You can see all kinds of data. Geographic breakdowns, etc. There was a huge demand for things like this from artists. And they can use this data beyond the web – like when they think about tour dates. This will be available to all artists.

And we can extend this across other entertainment models.

JB: Will you charge for it?

OV: I think we’ll find other ways to monetize. One more product announcement is that we’re launching the full catalog of music videos from all the labels (big and independant) in one place for the first time. This is a byproduct of our relatioships with the labels.

We know that we can make the site a lot easier to use, and we’re working on that. This is one thing. This is a cleaner design than a lot of areas of the site. This will launch as I step off the stage. This will surface videos in a social way.

JB: Didn’t Google just announce that?

OV: But ours is pretty. (laughs)

JB: But seriously what do you have to say about what Google just announced?

OV: No deal news, but we have a lot of cool partner announcements. Google has been a great partner for a long time. Stay tuned.

JB: Let’s talk about Google more. They have a huge deal with MySpace, that expires next year. It’s big to have that money, but it may not have worked out that well for Google. Does your business hurt if that goes away?

OV: We’re really pleased with where are business is and where it’s going. We’ve always been good at monetizing our business. This is integrated marketing that no one else on the web does. And we’ve just scratched the surface. A key going forward is how you measure success. Our business doesn’t hinge on any one deal. News Corp believes that too.

JB: Jon Miller is your boss, and they’re building a business of their own: FIM, and MySpace is a part of it.

OV: Jon will talk more about it, but FIM is a big part of our monetization today.

JB: If Google goes away can that replace it?

OV: Again, we’re really good at monetization. There’s a lot of opportunity.

JB: Owen was an early member of Facebook. What does success eventually look like for MySpace now?

OV: We think we have all the building blocks, we just need to execute. If we do that we will realize the vision of content being socialized.

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