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Internet Brands sues Xenforo on eve of beta release

     
2:28 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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vBulletin vs. vBulletin?
The current makers of vBulletin are suing the former developers of vBulletin in an effort to disrupt the launch of their new competing forum software.
Internet Brands claims against Xenforo [vbulletin.com]

Internet Brands today has 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.

A lot of people at the Xenforo forums [xenforo.com] are quite upset by this turn of events. Xenforo was about to open a paid beta program today (October 5). Is this is going to put a damper on their plans?
5:37 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Amazing story. I have always loved using vBulletin, but I have not been as pleased with the software since they released version 4. Now as to whether the code is rewritten on not, one can only judge after viewing the source. I didn't hear any mention of a non-compete agreement or of any patents, so it may be the kind of thing that could drag out for a while.
6:33 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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>> it may be the kind of thing that could drag out for a while.

I sincerely hope not. There are a lot of us who are not keen on the direction and quality of VB4.

In any case, I'm glad this is being played out before customers have invested time and money on Xenforo - would have hated to convert to 1.0 and find out its dodgy.
6:51 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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in an effort to disrupt the launch of their new competing forum software.


I stopped using VB4 when I got a series of letters from them telling me I hadn't paid for my license JUST OVER ONE MONTH after I paid for a yearly license. They later admitted there was an error but I had demanded a refund and stuck with that once I got it. In all fairness I don't think VB had a clue what their outsourced hound dog was doing.

If VB is sincerely only trying to stop a competitor from launching a product their suit could backfire strongly leaving them liable for the very things they claim Xenforo are doing.

Bottom line, I wouldn't touch either of these paid options right now especially with free options available.
8:24 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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One way to see if software has been "copied" is to see if it has the same bugs. There's plenty of bugs - and insane design decisions - in vBulletin to make that sort of judgment. :)
2:40 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This is exciting! I didn't even know Kier & Co. were working on a new product. I consider vB4 an inferior product to vB3, even though the former is basically the latter with some gimmicky web 2.0 layout features and a modified template engine.

I'm definitely going to keep an eye on Xenforo from now on :)
4:00 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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vB is now bloatware and has been for a couple of years.

they wrote to me 3 years ago asking me to renew my licence. I replied that I wasn't even using it. They reply: it's still installed on your server even though it's not publicly accessible. My closing line: see you in court then. Still waiting for their comeback.
6:24 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The XenForo source code hasn't yet been released, so it would seem unlikely the lawsuit is based on code similarities. In any case XenForo have mentioned they have quite a different architecture to anything else.

Equally it is likely that a developer will not ignore prior learning. That's what they call experience.

A lawsuit like this will surely be won by the side with the most money (the side that can afford to keep going the longest). That is unlikely to be a small bunch who have been developing software for the last couple of years instead of making money.

7:48 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Glad I saw this. Didn't know about XenForo. I have a dozen or so licenses I'll be purchasing once I see it and if it passes my quality requirements. This move by IB is utterly stupid... it's just like Digital Equipment Corporation and Data General.

DG was started by former DEC employees. No one knew who the hell DG was until DEC started spreading the news to stay away from that awful DG hardware, virtually created a market for DG. Thanks IB for spreading the word about Xenforo, it'll be all over the world now in duplicates of this lawsuit press release!
8:03 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Might be a good time to jump back on the phpbb bandwagon, it's still free.
8:33 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I hadn't heard of XenForo. I like it better than vB, too bad IB is giving XenForo so much free publicity LOL.

I'm still a phpBB guy though, I won't be switching to either of those products. phpBB just works without all the politics, profit, law suits, shareholders, etc.
12:04 am on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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not a fan of IB but did the ex-vb guys start xenforo from scratch?
1:20 am on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Other reporting on this topic:

[theregister.co.uk...]
3:01 am on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The beta has been released and is for sale.
not a fan of IB but did the ex-vb guys start xenforo from scratch?
That's their claim. I believe Kier when he says they did.
4:22 am on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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$100 (goes to $140) for a BETA piece of software? Huh!? No thanks, I'll stick to phpBB for free. And not beta. Why is the beta so expensive I wonder?
7:08 am on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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You're not paying for the beta product. It's a 1 year license that starts once the product goes Gold. If you buy today it's cheaper.
5:23 pm on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I am sorta surprised by some of the comments I have read here and on the web about this issue. So lets recap:

-> VB owners sold vb and all IP to IB a couple years ago. There were no backdoors. It was everything.
-> vb was started as a port/copy/ripoff of UBB. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vbulletin)
-> less than a year after the sale, former vb owners were talking of starting a forum.

> They were in beta

It is pretty certain IB probably has a copy of the code. The forums looked and acted pretty much like VB. When I went to their site, i thought it *was* VB. Of course IB is going to defend a product they purchased. Legally, there is no question who defrauded here. You sell a product - you sell a product - end of story - move on. However, given that the original VB was a (their words) a port/copy/rippoff of UBB, it shouldn't be a surprise. Just because source code is available, doesn't make it open source.

> v4

Agreed. v3 and earlier was extremely poor at "community". It's main goal was to wow administrators and sell copies.

However, v4 is very interesting. We have been using it on another site since the launch and are finding it very user friendly. It is as if someone mixed a modern forum, Word Press, and a CMS together in an integrated system. I think it has a huge future. It could displace wordpress as the prolevel software of choice.



> not a fan of IB but did the ex-vb guys start xenforo from scratch?

If you go to their site, you can't tell whether you are looking at vb3 or their software. No programmer blows away years of work.

The salt-n-pepper in the timing of this, is that with the suit per-empting the launch, they can now go back and switch more code and make it look vastly different internally. The problem IB will have on that front is finding a judge with the technical brain to understand that. However, that also might make the judge more inclined to look at the overall picture of a guy selling the code and then turning around and building and selling a similar product.

Either way, sounds like there were iron glad non-competes in place and active. I'd give 5 to 1 odds in IB's favor on this one.
5:47 pm on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It doesn't have half the screen elements, a two column layout rather than a 3 column, a tabbed interface instead of drop-down buttons, admin panel which is utterly different, most functions pull up in special pop up windows, etc. I don't see how one can say they look the same, they are no more the same in look than phpBB and VBulletin... in that some parts of all forum software share a common look, just like all spread sheet programs.

Some things, Brett, you are stating as fact, when its not. Its not a certainty IB has a copy of the code - that's speculation. Its not "no question who defrauded here" without knowing the contract details, the jurisdiction, whether the code was written from scratch, etc. The courts will determine that.

IB's non-competes... I didn't get one from them and know at least one other who didn't (didn't ask any other site owners). IB's contract language tends to state its based on California law, and generally non-competes are illegal in California.

If the code was written from scratch, I don't see how IB's case will hold up.
7:25 pm on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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>code was written from scratch

If there is a valid noncompete in place, then end-of-story.
7:55 pm on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Agreed, if the time span is long enough, and the contract is not according to California law (don't think it is as they filed in GB), and there is a non-compete. I'm holding out to see the details of the case, which I suspect will probably end up out of court.

Now if they outright took code, then its a slam dunk against them. But if they didn't, there are complications... these guys didn't sell VB to IB. They worked for IB via VBulletin until 2009, and how their non-compete, if any with Jelsoft, is written is what I believe (but don't know as I admittedly don't know UK law) is what the case will win/lose on. It'll be interesting to watch. If the code is 100% new... I'm cheering for them, IB has outraged a lot of people with the licensing changes.
8:13 pm on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Noncompetes are tricky things...

however

I assume the noncompete that owners/developers sign when they sell their product to a another company is viewed diffently by the courts then the typical NC just about all tech employees have to sign.

I also assume that IB feels that the new product was worked on while the Xenforo employees still worked for IB and/or were under the NC.

Xenforo could be completely written from scatch but if all the new ideas came while the employees were still at IB they could be in violation.

Have to wait to see the actually suit.
8:21 pm on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Didn't know about Xenforo until now. I'm getting ticked with vbulletin, their cockiness and horrible support so I'm checking this one out.
2:59 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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>> We have been using it on another site since the launch and are finding it very user friendly.

Brett, Look forward to you upgrading WebmasterWorld to VB 4.0 and selling to IB. :)

>> If there is a valid noncompete in place, then end-of-story.

Depends on the validity of the non-compete. Seems like these guys waited a year before they did anything, including register the xenforo domain.

I'd not bet on these guys being dumb and starting their code by doing a search / replace on Jelsoft's copyright notices in the comments.

>> I'm getting ticked with vbulletin, their cockiness and horrible support so I'm checking this one out.

Rewind back to UBB days.
3:35 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Brett, I agree with Motorhaven
other than 'all forums look alike' I see no other similarities with VB, publicly.

Now, they know how to program forums and learned a lot doing VB, now property of IB. Did they gave up their rights to do what they really know forever?

Did they own Jelfost or just worked for them?

By reading looks like this forum will have less features (i.e. not please 0.05% that might use it)
10:26 pm on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Might be a good time to jump back on the phpbb bandwagon, it's still free.


There are plenty of other alternatives. I prefer to stick to software that is widely used and open source, as then, if the developer messes up (bloat, drop in standards, stagnation of development, simply being a ***) then someone will fork it.
11:08 pm on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The paid applications are open source. There's paid open source, and free open source. :)
4:40 pm on Oct 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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vBulletin is not open source. Look at the license.

I am pretty sure Xenforo is not open source either, and SMF has a not quite really open source license.
4:42 am on Oct 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I would be pretty mad if a bloke sold me his software and then next week, made something EXACTLY like that, but better. Seems anti-competitive.

E.g.: Using the funds from the sale to re-create a better product, as you already have the source code from the first product and existing knowledge, creating it the second time around won't be so hard.

I am surprised noone at IB forced them to sign a non-competition agreement for at least, e.g. 5-10years? This is the norm when selling things?
12:50 pm on Oct 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

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These guys didn't make something the next week, it was 3 years after the sale of the product. Non-competes usually don't have much teeth past 3-4 years, tops, and in California, where IB is based, they aren't legal.
6:09 pm on Oct 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It's useless, non-competitive agreements rarely hold up in court even if they are in effect. And for good reason, you can't force someone who's been developing forums for the past 10-15 years of their life to go do something different.
 

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