The seeds of a real David –v- Goliath battle of the boards have been sown as a big American corporate giant decides to sue a small British start-up – and the Internet appears to be very angry.
Introducing the fighters
The battle is between Internet Brands (IB), the American firm that purchased the market leading vBulletin (vB) forum software from British-based Jelsoft in 2007 and the new boys on the block – XenForo (xF), set-up by three former Jelsoft employees.
The new software had been on show at www.xenforo.com since the end of July 2010 and – thanks to a high rate of disapproval with how IB had handled the development of vB since they acquired it – hundreds of their customers had registered on the xF site.
The disgruntled masses speak!
At first IB seemed happy to allow discussion of the new software on the official vB site and even allowed a poll asking ‘Do you plan to move to XenForo?’ to remain open for weeks, although this was hidden from guests in their ‘licensed customer forum’.
However things were not going well for IB as over 50% of votes cast showed their customers were planning to move and the interest in xF started to snowball – despite the fact it had not been even released for sale at this point.
At the end of September it was announced that the xF software would be released on Tuesday 5th October priced at $140, but reduced to just $100 in a special one-day sale for earlier adopters.
The legal battle begins
At 5.29pm, British time, on Monday 4th October IB published an announcement on the official vB site that they had that afternoon, “commenced a lawsuit in the courts of England and Wales against Xenforo, and its founders, Kier, Mike and Ashley. The lawsuit is about these claims: infringement of our copyrighted intellectual property, breach of contract, and unfair business practices.
“The suit is simple: we claim that Kier, Mike, and Ashley have infringed and violated contracts they signed with us to gain unfair business advantage. As such, Xenforo’s software unfairly stands on the shoulders of more than a decade of development by Jelsoft. Internet Brands owns this intellectual property.”
Support for XenForo grows
Within minutes threads exploded on the official sites of both vB and xF.
In less than 24 hours over 1300 posts appeared on xF, which as you would expect were largely in support of the new company, while well over 700 posts appeared on the vB site, but perhaps not the sort of response IB was expecting, as here too the vast majority of posts were in support of xF.
Traffic on the xF site went through the roof with over four times the number of guests normally online and hundreds of new members registering to support the guys.
Many on both sites were saying that they intend to buy a xF licence, with some going as far as announcing that would buy more licences than they actually need at this stage in support xF – while others on the xF forum were even requesting a donate button to help their legal defence!
A boycott looms?
The matter wasn’t helped by what many felt was an implied threat towards anyone daring to purchase the xF software, IB stated, “We trust that software purchasers understand the risks of infringement of copyright law and act accordingly.”
Meanwhile on vb.org, the official vB free mod community site, a growing number of coders are withdrawing their mods and/or announcing they will no longer be supporting the mods – who knows how this boycott will play out.
It seems clear the IB announcement was timed to have maximum impact on xF’s launch day and sale, but seems to have massively backfired on the company.
Meanwhile the response to IB’s demand that they do not go ahead with the launch was met with a virtual two-finger salute from xF in the form of confirmation that they would not be giving in to such bullyboy tactics and would go ahead with their planned launch.
There’s a great blog post from one of the co-owners of I.P. Boards, the main competition to vB, here: How to lose friends and alienate people
Good luck to Kier, Mike & Ashley – you are the good guys.