Well, that was fast. Facebook has pulled their new Find Friends Nearby feature. Introduced over the weekend, Find Friends Nearby allowed users to easily add people near them to their friends list. All you had to do was open the website on your phone's browser (or navigate to the Find Friends Nearby section of the iOS or Android app) and have the people you wanted to friend do the same. Now, though, the new feature is dead, almost before it had the chance to live.
In a statement to ABC News yesterday afternoon, Facebook insisted that Find Friends Nearby had been rolled out as a test. "This isn't a formal release," they said. While some tests get formal rollouts, others don't. They promised to "communicate to everyone when there is something to say." So there you have it. It was just a test that either wasn't supposed to go live for everyone, or didn't make the cut for some reason.
There may, however, be more to it than that. As we told you yesterday, not all of the attention Find Friends Nearby attracted was positive. The CEO of Friendthem insisted that Find Friends Nearby was a shameless ripoff of his company's product, an app that allows users to make location-based Facebook friend requests. In fact, as Friendthem CEO Charles Sankowich told WebProNews, he believes his company has a strong legal case against Facebook and plans to pursue the matter in court. He cited "dinner with a senior executive, multiple traded emails, and Facebook's discussion of a 'hack-a-thon'" as evidence that Facebook was deliberately copying Friendthem. He declined to discuss the specifics of the evidence, citing a desire not to "litigate this matter publicly," but insisted that "we have a strong legal case."
If Friendthem's case is as strong as Sankowich claims, then suddenly Facebook's quick removal of Find Friends Nearby looks a lot different. If the product is too similar to Friendthem, then Facebook was wise to take it down. On the other hand, as we noted yesterday, Facebook's version appears to have been born out of Glancee, another social discovery app that enabled location-based friend requests, which Facebook acquired some time ago. Sankowich insists that Glancee and Friendthem are very different services, though, and that Find Friends Nearby is clearly a ripoff of Friendthem.
Sankowich is very confident in his company's case and seems determined to proceed with legal action. We'll keep you posted on how this plays out.