The founders of an online social networking Web site filed a lawsuit against thefacebook.com, seeking to shut down the popular site and take away most of its profits.
ConnectU.com, which was started by twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, has accused thefacebook.com founder Mark Zuckerberg of basing his site on their original project. The suit was filed Sept. 2 in a Massachusetts federal court.
As a sophomore at Harvard University, Zuckerberg wrote the code for ConnectU.com, formerly a project by the student founders called HarvardConnection.com.
“Basically, the idea behind the Web site, the original aspect, bringing social networking to the college level at various (campuses) … that’s what he took while claiming to do work for us,” said Narendra, who graduated with his fellow founders last spring.
The ConnectU.com creators said they first took the case to the Harvard Administrative Board and its president, but the issue was ruled to be outside of the university’s jurisdiction. The graduates then filed a federal lawsuit against thefacebook.com.
“At Harvard there is an Honor Code that tries to promote honesty between students. Most schools have honor codes like this that apply to harassment, academic dishonesty and personal property,” Narendra said. “This is intellectual property, and it’s frustrating that the administrators don’t see it under the same light.”
Narendra said that Zuckerberg was referred to them as someone skilled at writing code for the online information and seek out their peers online.
“From fall 2003 until February 2004 when Facebook came out he claimed to be working for us, and we went along with it and motivated him to work hard,” said Narendra, who added that Zuckerberg never had any formal contract with HarvardConnection.com.
Thefacebook.com, which added GW to its list of 41 available schools this summer, follows a similar format as ConnectU.com. Students are able to look up the personal information of their classmates through the Internet, making new acquaintances and keeping tabs on friends.
Chris Huges, spokesperson for thefacebook.com, said that Zuckerberg worked for ConnectU.com in an “informal relationship,” but was never contracted, never paid and was never legally bound to HarvardConnection.com.
“The claims of the founders of ConnectU are completely unfounded,” Huges said.