Amazon’s bullying tactics make my blood pressure rise. Alexa (owned by Amazon) has chosen to file a lawsuit against for “stealing Alexa’s proprietary data by disregarding the rules for Alexa’s Web Services–through which Alexa makes certain proprietary data available in exchange for a fee–and instead simply taking the data and graphs he wants without permission.” (source: PDF legal filings) which was originally had been operating for over a year without issue and, in fact, Geoffrey Mack (Product Manager at Alexa) posted on the Alexa corporate blog that the latest enhancements to Alexa “may not be as cool as Alexaholic, but they are a significant improvement.” Furthermore, Alan Graham of ZD Net noted “in the meantime, Alexa continued to make improvements to their site, many of which were seen to be directly copied from Alexaholic.”

Well now that the improvements are complete and even though Geoffrey Mack changed his domain from Alexaholic to Statsaholic to avoide trademark issues, it seems Alexa has had enough of him and have filed a lawsuit to crush this enterprising web 2.0 developer. Alexa claims Statsaholic’s “conduct has caused and will continue to cause damage to Alexa and an illicit gain of profit to Defendant, and is causing irreparable harm to Alexa for which there is no adequate remedy under the law.”

Unbelievable! I salute Alan Graham for his well worded response to this backhanded move by Alexa:

“Excuse me? Little Ron Hornbaker…is causing giant Alexa irreparable harm? And the question that really begs to be asked is that why all of a sudden, over a year later, when Alexa had ample opportunity to address this issue, did they decide to do it now? The simple fact of the matter is that Ron Hornbaker built a better Alexa and as soon as it started to gain traction, and Alexa had already borrowed all the ideas it wanted from Alexaholic, they no longer needed it. Essentially, what Alexa wants from the lawsuit is to take ownership of the Alexaholic domain, stop Ron Hornbaker from accessing their site without written permission, damages which will go well into the hundreds of thousands, pay their legal fees, and crawl into a hole somewhere and never show his head again. … Is this how we work together in this shiny new world of Web 2.0?”

Apparently Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of Alexa was a bit flabbergasted when the Alexaholic dispute was raised by Tim O’Reilly during a interview in front of a crowd of Web 2.0 companies (the interview will be here soon). In response to Tim’s request that Alexa and Alexaholic find a way to get along (because they are both great websites) Jeff seemed to uncertainly stumble through a list of arguments about trademark rights and intellectual property.

All-in-all, I find it beyond sad that Alexa would target a great site like for infringement when it plainly compliments their own website. In fact, as was noted in other articles on this topic, Alexa’s data (its lifeblood) is compiled entirely thanks to the kindness of volunteers who install their toolbar. So where does Alexa get off torturing a small website that has done nothing but provide improved (and very popular) access to this data? I am sure they could have worked with to create an amicable solution. I hope the Alexa staff involved in this suit have some sleepless nights as a result of the inevitable public backlash of their foolhardy bullying.

Related Articles and Sources on the Amazon (Alexa) vs. Alexaholic Story

  • Om Malik calls this case a part of the “End of Innocence” of Web 2.0 as companies like Google and Amazon begin to reaffirm control over their information after letting Web 2.0 API users innovate for them.
  • Amazon’s War on Statsaholic” by Michael Arrington at Tech Crunch
  • Alan Graham’s excellent coverage “Amazon sues Alexaholic… everyone loses!
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