Facebook sues social-network aggregator Power.com

Social-networking giant files claim against start-up that gives users access to several social networks and messaging clients at once.

Jennifer Guevin Former Managing Editor / Reviews
Jennifer Guevin was a managing editor at CNET, overseeing the ever-helpful How To section, special packages and front-page programming. As a writer, she gravitated toward science, quirky geek culture stories, robots and food. In real life, she mostly just gravitates toward food.
Jennifer Guevin
2 min read

Facebook is suing Power.com, a Brazilian start-up that lets users access a number of social networks through one portal.

Facebook filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., for copyright and trademark infringement; unlawful competition; and violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, CAN-SPAM Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, among other charges.

Power.com signs users into their various social networks and messaging clients and delivers the data from those sites and services to one page. For example, you can see all of your friends, their status updates, visit their profile pages, and even send a message to multiple friends on multiple social networks--all in one place. Last month, Webware editor Rafe Needleman described it as Meebo for social networks, and it's obviously a big convenience for people who have profiles and friends spread across Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Hi5, and the AOL, Yahoo, and MSN instant messaging clients.

But Facebook would rather users go through them. It has requested that Power.com use Facebook Connect instead of asking users for their log-in information and has been in discussions with the start-up for a month, according to The New York Times. But the Times reports the two failed to come to any resolution, and so Facebook decided to file suit. Power removed access to Facebook after the claim was filed.

It's true that Power.com does its thing without consent from the sites and services it taps into. But a month ago, when the company was making its first big push into the U.S., CEO Steve Vachani told the Times that Power.com was in fine legal standing because it only accesses other sites' content when a user voluntarily logs in. He likened Power.com's actions to the way social networks import contact lists from e-mail services or the way Meebo accesses users' instant message accounts.

Facebook seems to be feeling the pressure from FriendFeed, Twitter, and other social sites du jour--doing its own compiling of third-party sites. In May, it added feeds from Google Reader, Hulu, Last.fm, Pandora, StumbleUpon, and YouTube into its Mini Feed service, which had already included Delicious, Digg, Flickr, Picasa, and Yelp. And in August it launched Live Feed, a real-time stream of everything your Facebook friends are doing on the site, giving users a more centralized way to track their contacts' activity.

A screenshot of Power.com before Facebook was removed from the site's offerings. Rafe Needleman/CNET Networks