Facebook has more than half a billion usersor at accounts at leastand is valued at over $33bn. It’s the behemoth of the social networking industry. Which makes it all the more interesting why it would take a tiny rival to court for ‘wilfully and deliberately’ infringing its brand.

Teachbook is aimed at teachers who otherwise face the problems associated with students accessing their profiles. Seems like a good idea. I don’t know how many users they have, but I suspect that they’ve had a lot more visitors than usual in the last few days as news of the case has spread. I don’t believe that they are trying to pass themselves off as Facebook, the sites look totally different. And surely Facebook doesn’t need the publicity, is there a human being on the planet that has access to a computer that doesn’t know about it?

In fact, I’d argue that this seriously damages Facebook’s image. This is the sort of thing that you’d expect to see Microsoft do: the establishment, the big corporate; not the company changing the rulebook. Surely Facebook doesn’t feel threatened by Teachbook. It’s probably trying to close the door and prevent Mumbook and Gothbook, but so what if they are created? Twitpic and thousands of other sites with “twit” or “tweet” in their name haven’t worried Twitter, actually they’ve been a significant factor in the company’s growth. If Facebook had been smarter about its privacy settings and more open to creating communities within its universe, Teachbook would probably never have been built.

Facebook looks invincible at the moment, but so did MySpace, Lotus 123, Yahoo and lots of former market leaders. It has the power to mimic the features of exciting new startupsthe logo for Places looks like a 4 in a square, now there’s cause for a court casebut it can no longer claim to be cool. Unlike the OS or app market, social networking is affected by the whims of fashion. Facebook is well on its way to being the M&S of the market; solid, but not very exciting; where your mum posts!

Posted by John on 26 August 2010