Developer to Facebook: I got there first on friend-finding feature

A developer--who lists Microsoft among his affiliations on Facebook--says the social-networking site ought to give credit to those who come up with ideas that Facebook eventually implements.

Update March 31, 5:07 AM PDT: The post now reflects additional commentary from Amin Ariana.

The creator of a Facebook application called Friendmates doesn't seem to be too thrilled with the social-networking site's new "People You May Know" feature, which launched earlier this week.

"This new feature and its functionality is suspiciously identical to the application I released for Facebook six months ago (albeit with limited resources)," developer Amin Ariana said in an e-mail to CNET, "but it gives no credit to the original author."

Facebook has asserted that if developers apply to its FBFund grant program, there's no guarantee Facebook won't come up with something similar to their business plans. Ariana said that he did not apply for a FBFund grant for Friendmates. Facebook representatives could not comment on whether this also applies to existing platform applications.

"I believe the outcome of this and similar moves without appropriate repercussions in giving credit to developers who are coming up with innovative ideas will ultimately result in the discouragement of such developers and a diminish(ed) effect on innovative thinking," Ariana continued. "I know change cannot be stopped, but along the way giving credit to the little people underneath will be a key to success against competition."

Friendmates isn't exactly SuperPoke or Zombies. The application has only 238 daily active users, which amounts to 9 percent of those who have installed it.

It also doesn't look that similar to "People You May Know." Friendmates allows you to see which friends have the most friends in common with you, tag Facebook members whose faces you recognize, and hear from those who have recognized you. And it invites users to manually tag their friends with how well they know them in order to assess other members whom the users might know.

Additionally, business social-networking site LinkedIn has operated a feature similar to Facebook's for months now.

Amin Ariana maintained that he sees peculiar similarity in the two. "Essentially both apps are technically using common friends to extrapolate (or suggest) potential friends," he said. "The 'suggestion engine' behind the exact same."

And here's some irony: Ariana, as well as Friendmates co-creators Steve Dill and Sean Erle Johnson, are all members of the Microsoft network on Facebook. Microsoft, as you probably know already, has a $240 million stake in Facebook.

But Ariana said in an e-mail that he's not formally a Microsoft employee. "I only contract with them as a software design engineer to make money to support my own small projects, which are not supported by Microsoft in any way," he wrote.