Chicago firm aims to stop Facebook's 'Timeline'

October 3, 2011

A Chicago firm is trying to prevent Facebook from launching a feature it says will harm its business. 

Chicago-based Timelines Inc., which operates www.timelines.com, recently sought a temporary restraining order to prevent Facebook from rolling out a site feature that would display a “timeline” of users’ profiles.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows Timeline during the f/8 conference in San FraFacebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the social network’s timeline feature at its F8 conference on Sept. 22. The feature itself has raised the ire of many privacy advocates who have said the new feature will share too much personal information

On Friday, Timelines Inc. asked a federal judge to block the launch of the feature, but the request for a temporary restraining order was denied.  U.S. federal district court Judge Edmond Chang says the company has to make its case for the use of the word “timeline.”  Chang said the company must prove that the term timelines does not fall “squarely within the generic category.”

Facebook’s product manager, Samuel Lessin, testified under oath that the company “does not plan on opening access any broader than the current access and does not plan on any media events to promote Timeline.”

Earlier, searches for “Timelines” on Facebook were re-directing users to Facebook’s Timeline page.   Facebook confirmed and said it has fixed he re-direction to  Timeline Inc.’s Facebook page, which as of Monday afternoon has 1,012 “likes.”

Timeslines Inc. bills itself as “the first web site that enables people like you to collaboratively record and share history,” according to its website.  The site says users can “record the details of events, connect them in space and through time to other related events.”

The judge implied it would be hard for Timelines Inc. to prove they will suffer much harm, and made light of the fact that they did not file for a temporary restraining order until eight days after Facebook’s announcement of the feature.

Although Chang denied the restraining order, he is requiring Facebook to report its enrollment of “developers” who are currently using Facebook’s Timeline feature under quasi-beta testing for use of product development purposes.

According to the filing, the number of “developers” has grown to 1.1 million users with 100,000 – 200,000 enrolling each day. Chang has said that if the enrollment is greater than estimated, Timelines Inc. can renew its motion for a restraining order.

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