Last week, Facebook announced its Video Calling service, powered by Skype, over at the URL facebook.com/videocalling. A company called Samuday Web Technologies claims it had that domain first but that Facebook killed its video chat app to make room for its own feature. Samuday CEO Nimit Kumar contacted GigaOM to explain how serious the issue was:
In an email, Kumar told me that he is discussing the possibility of legal action with several lawyers: "They have been supportive thus far, but being a young (bootstrapped) startup, we are short of resources."After seeing the article yesterday, I immediately contacted Facebook to get the company's side of the story. Facebook got back to me today. "The app was disabled by an automated system for a policy violation that was not related to the URL of the app," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "The developer's appeal was manually reviewed; the violation was confirmed, and the appeal was denied. Two months after the initial disabling of the app, Facebook acquired the URL." Samuday's uniRow video-calling app launched on Facebook at the URL in question back in December 2010. Kumar says the app amassed 22,000 users, more than a third of whom were active, and managed to attract 4,500 Likes as well as an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars (after more than 120 ratings). On April 7, 2011, Facebook deleted Samuday's video-calling app without any warning whatsoever, according to Kumar. Samuday asked Facebook why this had happened and received the following response about how the app violated Facebook's rules:
Samuday says it did not "pre fill" any fields without any user action. The company decided against relaunching the uniRow video-calling app since it only two developers were working on it, and there were other products to worry about. When Facebook launched its own video app at uniRow's old URL last week though, Kumar became suspicious and speculated why his app was really kicked off of the platform:
This app pre-fills user's message and this is not allowed according to our Policies (point IV.2): "You must not pre-fill any of the fields associated with the following products, unless the user manually generated the content earlier in the workflow: Stream stories (user_message parameter for Facebook.streamPublish and FB.Connect.streamPublish, and message parameter for stream.publish), Photos (caption), Videos (description), Notes (title and content), Links (comment), and Jabber/XMPP."
We recommend you to fix this and re-launch again the app. Also, in order to avoid bad user's feedback, we recommend you to monitor user reports and be sure to comply with all Facebook Principles and Policies (http://developers.facebook.com/policy/).
The question to ask is what happened around April 7th (exactly 3 months before the launch of Facebook-Skype Video Calling). It is clear that when the plan for rolling out their application was decided, Facebook wanted to use the phrase "Video Calling" and therefore wanted the URL. Instead of communicating this to the page (and application) owners, it went ahead and disabled the application. This is grossly undemocratic and probably illegal (we are looking into this aspect). We tried our best to get the application reinstated, but did not succeed.Kumar also argues that his company's app was no different than other similar Facebook apps that are still functional: Video Chat Rounds, Tiny Chat, and vChatter. It's difficult to say who is correct here because we obviously can't check out the app in question. It's Samuday's word against Facebook's. The issue likely won't be resolved unless the parties go to court.