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Episode 741: Amy and Steve vs. Facebook


Aarti Shahani, NPR

It's Silicon Valley in 2006. Social networking is getting huge. Myspace is hot. Friendster is still a thing. Facebook is taking off. New sites are starting all the time, all of them trying to come out on top. There's one thing in this early world of social networking that is sort of a pain--you have separate usernames and passwords for each account. It's annoying to log in three times to post the same photo in three places, or to check three inboxes.

That's when Steve Vachani had an idea. He wanted to make a site that brings all of your social networks together. A sort of super network. If it worked, he could be at the center of this whole new part of the web.

For a while, it was working. His site was taking off. And Facebook didn't like it. They wanted to protect their turf. So they sued him.

A battle ensued between two young internet companies, and something unusual happened: Neither side backed down. One side had the best lawyers money could buy. The other had a newbie lawyer who had never argued a case in court before. The result could set a legal precedent that will affect every person on the Internet.

Today on the show: How Facebook protects its turf, and what it means for the future of the internet. It's the story of a man who tried to open up the web, who had an idea that would have made it easier to use pretty much every site with a login, and how he got crushed.

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