Updated: Tweetmeme accuses Retweet.com of stealing its code

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A really geeky recreation of the THX Deep Note

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When I read yesterday that Retweet.com was about to launch a competitor to Nick Halstead’s Tweetmeme, I dropped Nick an email to ask if he had anything to say about it. He didn’t reply to my email, and now I think I know why. Look what Nick just posted on the Tweetmeme blog:

What caught my attention was that some industrious individual (@travisketchum) had left a comment on the TechCrunch article that he had been doing some digging around on the website and had found a link to their development environment. What we found ourselves was that our retweet button Javascript and the WordPress plugin code seemed to have been directly copied from ours.

We are happy for others to learn from our endeavors and flattered by the copying but some of our more complex JavaScript was obfuscated to deter others from attempting to re-use our code. We take a dim view of trying to pass off our code especially when it is attempting to create a competitor.

We our seeking further legal advice and will be pursuing every avenue to protect the hard work of our team.

Can this be true? I’ve emailed Nick for more information, and I’ll be trying to get hold of Retweet.com’s COO, Tyson Quick, as well.

Update: I’ve been alerted to the following similarities in code between the Retweet.com and Tweetmeme.

(1) Take a look at the code for Retweet.com’s Retweet button (retrieved from http://174.129.199.128/meme/static/retweets.js at 17:43 today):

(function()
{
  var _url=window.location.href;
  var _url=_url.replace(/((?:?|&)?fbc_receiver=.+)?(?:#.*)?$/,"");
  var url=((typeof retweet_url=="string")?retweet_url:((typeof retweet_URL=="string")?retweet_URL:_url)).replace(/+/g,"%2b");
  var source=(typeof retweet_source=="string")?escape(retweet_source):((typeof retweet_SOURCE=="string")?escape(retweet_SOURCE):false);
  var style=(typeof retweet_style=="string")?escape(retweet_style):((typeof retweet_STYLE=="string")?escape(retweet_STYLE):"normal");
  var src="http://174.129.199.128/meme/widget/tweets/";
  switch(style){
    case"compact":
           var h=20;var w=90;break;
    case"rednose":var h=71;var w=60;break;default:var h=71;var w=60;break
   }
   src+=url;
   if(source!=false)
   {
     src+="&source="+source
   }
   document.write('<iframe src="'+src+'" height="'+h+'" width="'+w+'" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>');
   retweet_url=null;
   retweet_URL=null;
   retweet_source=null;
   retweet_SOURCE=null;
   retweet_style=null;
   retweet_STYLE=null})();

This is an almost exact copy of Tweetmeme’s retweet button code. The word “tweetmeme” has been replaced with “retweet”. Note also the “rednose” reference: it refers to a now-defunct feature of Tweetmeme’s button.

(2) Here’s some code from Retweet.com’s WordPress plugin (retrieved from http://174.129.199.128/meme/static/retweets.zip today at 17:49):

function tm_options() { add_options_page(‘Retweets Settings’, ‘Retweets’, 8, __FILE__, ‘tm_options_page’);

}

function tm_update($content) {
See those "tm_" functions? "tm" stands for Tweetmeme.
Want more? Try looking at the two websites side by side.
Update 2 (@17:58): It appears Retweet.com has begun to delete offending code from its servers. Check out this 404 error for a page that previously contained widget code.
  • http://aerocles.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/recommended-reading-for-july-27th-2009/ Recommended Reading For July 27th 2009 « Legends of Aerocles

    […] Tweetmeme accuses Retweet.com of stealing its code – TechCrunch UK […]

  • http://ollieparsley.com Ollie Parsley

    I’m glad that they are taking down that code. It’s not like the code was “inspired” or anything it was a simply copy&paste with a find and replace to change “tweetmeme” to “retweet”.

    I hope Nick stands up for Tweetmeme and the awesome service they provide.

    Ollie

  • http://mesiablabs.com/blog/?p=983 Mesiab Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Oh My! – Peeking Under Retweet.com’s Skirt

    […] diligent reader poking around on our development server noted similarities in Retweet.com’s ’share’ button and wordpress […]

  • John

    Surely these things happen all the time?, in some ways that has made the web what it is today by being able to view source, adapt etc.

    Code is copied and ideas are developed and not attributed (where did the original idea for tweetmeme come from? http://cleverclogs.org/2009/07/the-original-idea-behind-tweetmeme.html) all the time.

    If there are parts of tweetmeme are protected by patent(s) then that is a different issue and worth seeking legal advice.

    In the meantime this is just a good PR opportunity to build the tweetmeme brand (especially as one “wronged”) against any new “upstarts”…

  • http://twitblock.org/ Tim

    I hope both companies get some PR value out of this exposure, because there certainly isn’t any news value.

    All that JS snippet does is write out an iframe, hardly worth obfuscating or stealing.

    Anyone interesting in implementing a ready-made retweet button without infringing copyright can look to @jeresig’s open source solution which he posted here: http://ejohn.org/blog/retweet/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin_Mesiab/629049795 Kevin Mesiab

    Update from the trenches ;) – Mesiab Labs responds to Tweetmeme.com and Techcrunch post:

    http://rt.nu/-m95

    • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

      “one of our developers had based a prototype button and widget on tweetmeme.com’s publicly viewable scripts “. So you admit you copied their code?

    • Allison

      Good luck trademarking retweet (per your blog post). You may own the domain, but never the word.

  • http://twitter.com/plc Peter C

    the best retweet.com can do now is just own up, apologize for being daft and try to release a great product.

    this is rapidly becoming a trainwreck, everyone knows they fucked up, they’ve been caught out – just fess up, offer a public apology to tweetmeme and get on with the product.

    • Jessi

      Um, Im pretty sure that is exaclty what Kevin’s post was above ^ http://rt.nu/-m95

  • http://twitter.com/plc Peter C

    I have no idea why I wrote essentially the same thing twice in two seperate paragraphs.

    really wish techcrunch would overhaul their comment system (hint: disqus)

  • Name*

    And TechCrunch steals Tweetmeme or Retweet.com’s code by posting it here?

  • http://www.broadstuff.com alan p

    This is quite an interesting case – in essence its no different in law to copying and minor alteration of someone’s else’s music, video or other prior art to create a new piece.

    Also, arguably it is just taking a small sample of someone else’s total code base to reproduce, much like taking bits from reports etc to make one’s own, with minor alterations.

    And besides, as we all apparently support piracy in music and video, why not for code?

    (Not supporting Retweet here, just pointing out the plusses and minusses of the impact of perfect digital reproduction)

  • http://www.ukstevieb.com/2009/07/28/steviebs-shared-items-july-28-2009/ StevieB’s Shared Items – July 28, 2009 at Lost in Cyberspace

    […] Tweetmeme accuses Retweet.com of stealing its codeJuly 27, 2009 […]

  • http://livz.org Steven Livingstone-Perez

    I think when it comes to the social world you need to be a lot more careful than perhaps others have been in the last 15 years of copying and pasting web code.

    This new visibility will sure bring some questions about openness… imagine what will happen in the coming years when it is not “open” code that is copied but open data.

    Decided to write a blog post about it.

    “the confusion of copying code on the web”
    http://bit.ly/12O3LG

  • Bob Andrew

    Is this so different from stealing photos? Like you did last week Milo?

  • http://brisbane.at9t.com/ 布里斯班

    Users would not care who is the original…

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com/2009/08/11/tweetmemes-traffic-surge-could-make-it-a-twitter-buy-target/ Tweetmeme’s traffic surge could make it a Twitter buy target

    […] No wonder Mesiab Labs wanted in on the action. And no wonder Nick Halstead recently wound down fav.or.it to concentrate on his new product. The […]

  • http://www.newsjacker.co.uk/media/tweetmeme%e2%80%99s-traffic-surge-could-make-it-a-twitter-buy-target/ Tweetmeme’s traffic surge could make it a Twitter buy target 

    […] No wonder Mesiab Labs wanted in on the action. And no wonder Nick Halstead recently wound down fav.or.it to concentrate on his new product. The […]

  • http://valashiya.blogspot.com Helen Hunt

    How did I miss this news and not hear about it?
    This is a hilarious story – some company copying another’s code and passing it off as theirs.

    Thanks guys for this post, I have added retweet.com to my black list. I won’t be using their service as it turns out that they are stealing code.

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com/2009/08/19/retweetcom-launches-and-theyre-still-using-tweetmemes-code/ Retweet.com launches… and they’re *still* using Tweetmeme’s code

    […] service that wants to steal Tweetmeme’s crown. We covered them before when it appeared that wasn’t all they were borrowing from Tweetmeme. But it seems Retweet.com are ploughing on, undaunted by the consequences (moral or otherwise) of […]

  • http://www.newsjacker.co.uk/media/retweet-com-launches%e2%80%a6-and-they%e2%80%99re-still-using-tweetmeme%e2%80%99s-code/ Retweet.com launches… and they’re *still* using Tweetmeme’s code 

    […] service that wants to steal Tweetmeme’s crown. We covered them before when it appeared that wasn’t all they were borrowing from Tweetmeme. But it seems Retweet.com are ploughing on, undaunted by the consequences (moral or otherwise) of […]

  • http://www.alseek.com/search/archives/22226 web: Retweet.com is No Competition for Tweetmeme | Alseek:The Academic Search Engine

    […] a service makes its debut by getting accused for stealing code from one of its competitors, you know that it’s going to be a tough road ahead. That was the case […]

  • http://www.family-learning-center.com/computers-technology/read-write-web/retweetcom-is-no-competition-for-tweetmeme/ Retweet.com is No Competition for Tweetmeme | Family Learning Center

    […] a service makes its debut by getting accused for stealing code from one of its competitors, you know that it’s going to be a tough road ahead. That was the […]

  • http://www.neurosoftware.ro/programming-blog/blogposter/web-resources/retweetcom-is-no-competition-for-tweetmeme/ Retweet.com Is No Competition for Tweetmeme - Programming Blog

    […] a service makes its debut by getting accused of stealing code from one of its competitors, you know that it’s going to be a tough road ahead. That was the […]

  • http://www.codedstyle.com/retweetcom-launches%e2%80%a6-and-they%e2%80%99re-still-using-tweetmeme%e2%80%99s-code/ Retweet.com launches… and they’re *still* using Tweetmeme’s code | My Blog

    […] service that wants to steal Tweetmeme’s crown. We covered them before when it appeared that wasn’t all they were borrowing from Tweetmeme. But it seems Retweet.com are ploughing on, undaunted by the consequences (moral or otherwise) of […]

  • http://www.blackweb20.com/2009/08/24/things-arent-looking-good-for-retweetcom/ Things Aren’t Looking Good For Retweet.com | Black Web 2.0

    […] seems that Retweet.com blatantly ripped off Tweetmeme’s code. Not only did they steal some of the JavaScript that makes the retweet button work, but they […]

  • http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/10/05/twittlink-share-fast-and-tweet-from-your-site-with-others/ TwittLink: Share Fast And Tweet From Your Site With Others

    […] were to take off it could face questions from both Tweetmeme over the button (this happened previously with Retweet.com), and Leo Laporte’s TWiT Network over the name (this happens quite a […]

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