When Facebook announced fbFund, a new program to give grants to Facebook application developers, at TechCrunch40, they clearly hadn’t thought through all the logistics of the program. Applicants were urged to simply email in their ideas for funding – see the video here.
Now they’ve rethought that process.
I can imagine they’ve been inundated with applications, which may be part of it. But as Facebook finds itself increasingly in competition with its own application partners, they probably also fear the inevitable lawsuits from applicants who will say Facebook simply stole their ideas. To counter the threat, they have deleted all email applications and have set up a Facebook application to take information.
In an email to all applicants today, Facebook notified applicants of the deletions and set forth the new method of submitting applications:
Thank you for your inquiry about the fbFund grant program, and for your support of the Facebook Platform. Our goal for this program is to encourage as many developers as possible to write innovative and engaging new applications on top of Facebook Platform. Additionally, we hope to enable an even broader class of developers to become entrepreneurs by giving you the financial resources necessary to pursue a new venture that relies on Facebook Platform.
It has become clear that we will receive proposals which contain similar or even identical ideas. As a result, and in order to protect other developers and us from claims that we or anyone else copied material without the creator\’s permission, unless we agree otherwise in writing, we can\’t promise that any materials or information you submit here will be kept confidential, or specifically that we or others might not develop similar or identical products or services.
To make sure that everyone understands the conditions of submitting a grant application, we will not review any materials you have sent via email, and any materials you may have sent have been deleted. If you would like to submit an application for an fbFund grant or require more information, please see our website and grant application submission form at http://www.facebook.com/developers/fbfund.php. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope the online information and submission form will help you develop and structure your proposal. We are accepting applications from around the world.
Again, we are very excited to be offering this program and wish you the best of luck whether or not you are an fbFund grant recipient. We can only give a limited number of grants and not getting one does not mean that we don\’t believe in your application nor that it can\’t be successful – it simply means that we have a limited amount of resources and weren\’t able to give money during this cycle to you. You are welcome to apply as many times as you like as each funding cycle represents a new opportunity to receive a grant.
More information is available at http://www.facebook.com/developers/fbfund.php.
Thank you for your patience — we apologize for the delay in this response. We\’ve seen a tremendous response to fbFund, and look forward to reviewing great proposals.
the fbFund team
Allen Stern has a post on September 20 showing the original email that applicants received when submitting an application. That email says “we can’t promise that any materials or information you submit here will be kept confidential, or specifically that we or others might not develop similar or identical products or services.” However, since this was sent in response to applications after they were already received, the legality of the clause was dubious at best. By rejecting applications and forcing applicants to agree to this statement prior to submitting an application, Facebook now stands on much firmer ground.
We’ve warned everyone before about the difficulty in building on the Facebook platform and quite possibly competing with Facebook itself. If you find yourself in that position, don’t look for legal remedies – you know what you got yourself into right from the start.