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Twitpic Blocks Posterous’ Import Tool; Out Come The Lawyers (techcrunch.com)
90 points by nirmal on June 30, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments

Haha, it's just using the RSS feed... trade secrets my ass.

TwitPic should be embarrassed, this is just anticompetitive BS.

There is a difference between data portability and, potentially, a denial of service due to a large-scale import. Twitpic probably cares about all its users and given that it does not control Posterous' scraper, it can only block it.

Also, let's not forget Twitpic's terms of service:

Data mining, "scraping", and/or unauthorized crawling of Twitpic by any means is prohibited unless explicit permission is given...

I bring these up because I'm sure when it's convenient for them, Posterous would point to their ToS to block something.

Had Posterous worked with Twitpic and got denied instead of doing an arrogant marketing campaign ("rescue"?), I would be 100% behind Posterous. Right now, it's Posterous posturing for the upper hand when they don't really have a case.

> unauthorized crawling of Twitpic by any means is prohibited

Twitpic have a publicly accessible http server. Sending it http requests is therefore something they've implicitly allowed.

Hypothetically, if I have something web accessible, and you are accessing it, it becomes unauthorized as soon as I (the owner of the service) tell you that you are no longer authorized to use my service.

Analogies rarely work -but it's sort of like how it's trespassing once I tell you to never come on my property again.

I also have a publicly accessible email address and phone number for my work. Should it be OK for someone to keep calling me incessantly and lock my phone line such that no one else can come through?

Of course not, and that's why there are tools to protect against phone and email spam, and that's why it's good to be polite and not abuse a service. Especially a free service.

You're supporting making it hard for people to export their data just because you don't like Posterous' tone?

If the load is causing problems for TwitPic, they should tell Posterous to increase the delay between requests when they're importing data. I doubt this is the case.

No I didn't say that: I support sensible ways of data export. I run websites myself and I know how a badly written scraper can affect performance. And as a user, I want full control of my data.

So the solution is to have both parties figure out how to transfer the data large amounts of data without affecting overall performance. It's a matter of being polite on both sides, and Posterous started the rudeness with this lame campaign, thus losing their moral high ground IMHO. Bringing in the lawyers is a bit blunt, but IMHO it's 100% Twitpic's right.

Service like Twitpic can actually protect themselves from this kind of problem by having APIs for data export, with the APIs having clear rate limiting and other specs any importer needs to adhere to. Then the lawyers are not needed and if the spec is breached, no one can complain if Twitpic blocks them.

The chances of Twitpic's performance being harmed by this are slim to none. I don't care about Twitpic being rude to Posterous, but Twitpic is being rude to its users.

Guess TwitPic disaggres that "Every Site Should Have A Data Portability Policy": http://www.techcrunchit.com/2010/06/23/why-every-site-should....

This episode can backfire on TwitPic a lot if users decide to leave it, and even more if Posterous decides to open source its TwitPic liberation tool to http://dataportability.org/. These were brought up by same guys from Google's data liberation front (http://www.dataliberation.org/), which is actually endorsed by google: http://twitter.com/google/statuses/17271511025

Good point. Reminds me of Mary Poppins where Michael tries to get his money back from the old banker and the resulting kerfuffle causes a bank run. I guess that is part of Posterous strategy to cause a bit of havoc and generate publicity and an exodus as a result.

Do users just not get a say in where their data lives anymore or what? Why in the hell don't these companies stop freaking out over whether or not a user can port his or her data someplace else and focus on WHY a user would want to in the first place.

They absolutely get a say - they can choose to put it on posterous, or not. They can also choose to put their data wherever they want.

What they don't get to do is force a business, unless it's part of a paid-for contract, to spend it's own resources and bandwidth to help an unrelated competitor (or anyone else).

It's own resources and bandwidth being a public facing RSS feed. A public data feed! If they don't want people to use their data feeds to, oh, I don't know, get data, then maybe something else is up. They are digging deep to find excuses rather than digging deep to compete. It's like if your girlfriend wants to break up and move away and asks for a ride to the bus station. Don't tell her to walk, show some class and help her go.

If a user wants to move from TwitPic to Posterous and TwitPic decides to block the simplest method of doing so, they are clearly in the wrong. Do you really think Posterous-generated traffic is significant compared to their usual traffic?

That wasn't really the point I was making - do I think it's a traffic problem? Probably not.

My point was that it's not about user's "rights" about their data - none of those are really being taken away - I don't like the sense of entitlement everyone wants - it's just going to breed gigantic TOS documents and legal hassles. Twitpic may very well be making a very bad PR move here (rather than spending the money innovating and competing)

Ok, I see what you're saying. I think the expectation that users will be able to get their data back out of a service if they choose to do so is a good one, and that services that don't meet that expectation should be criticized and avoided.

Spot on. If TwitPic is satisfying its users, they won't export to Posterous and stay put. This just looks bad on the part of TwitPic, as they're using legal threats to prevent users from making this choice.

Which if I was a TwitPic user might be the thing that provokes me into leaving their service.

"Oh, they're trying to crack down on users exporting their data? Better export mine now then..."

I say most TwitPic users won't care about this at all.

In the UK, the Data Protection Act does give users control of their data. Unfortunately it isn't much comfort when so much of Web 2.0 lives in the US.

Looks like they are blocking more than just Posterous.

@jazzychad: "ARGH. @twitpic is blocking the whole slicehost/rackspace cloud IP block again. /cc @cloudsupport @posterous"


They should block the entire Internet so that nobody can steal their trade secrets.

Surely the "scan rss feed and grab all the photos" tool could be re-written as a client side javascript app? Then they could only block it by blocking all their users :-)

That came to my mind too, but I don't think it's doable thanks to XSS restrictions.

To prevent nefarious scripts, XSS (cross-site scripting) isn't allowed by browsers. Thus, when you're on a posterous.com page, javascript can only make requests to posterous.com. When you're on a twitpic.com page, javascript can only make requests to twitpic.com. The way sites get around this is by making the request to the external site from their servers, but then the calls would still come from Posterous servers, so it would get blocked.

You could actually do it as a bookmarklet, though.

Make it a Chrome extension? Doable in a couple of hours, and might get more people to switch to Chrome. Goodness all around :)

Why the hate for firefox? I support firefox more, it started all the improvements in browsers, is done by a small company, and doesn't have so many fingers into my privacy pie.

That is not hate for Firefox, it's love for Chrome....

I wouldn't say Firefox "started" all the improvements ... Opera has been at the forefront for a long time, natural progression has taken place over the years, and now Firefox is playing catch-up with things like tab-isolation and HTML5

On paper it seems possible with JSONP requests and canvas' getImageData().

I thought this was a valid point brought up by Anil Dash on Twitter (http://twitter.com/anildash/status/17380509761):

"Of course Twitpic should allow export, but Posterous calling others "dying platforms" is an unnecessary dick move. Hence, pettiness."

Here's where they used the term "dying platforms": http://blog.posterous.com/make-the-switch-to-posterous

Yeah, Posterous are playing a little bit rough, but Twitpic shouldn't respond to that by making it look like they want to make it difficult for users to export their data. If something Posterous have said is untrue (maybe the dying platform part) then call them on it - post growth stats, demand a retraction, whatever. Don't alienate your users to get back at another company.

> Yeah, Posterous are playing a little bit rough

A bit rough? They're complete assholes about it.

> but Twitpic shouldn't respond to that by making it look like they want to make it difficult for users to export their data.

They're not, they haven't blocked anything (not even Posterous's IP block) and clearly said they don't plan on retiring the data export features.

It's brilliant marketing. Everyone knows their tool is going to get blocked anyway but like clockwork even small companies send in the lawyers which inevitably leads to great coverage.

By writing the tool they either get users or coverage. Win-win situation.

It's like an intentional version of the Streisand Effect

Twitpic is within its rights to block Posterous, but the threats to bring "trade secrets" laws into play are totally nuts. A technology company like Twitpic should know as well as anyone that if a human can access their content with a computer, a computer can access their content just as well with the proper direction.

Yeah, I hope they get slapped with court costs for this ridiculous argument

They are threatening legal action at this point. This is more like a C&D than a case. No case, no court costs.

Posterous should spend a day creating an easy export from their own service to prove they aren't afraid of competition. Then they would come out of these 2 weeks not looking like jerks.

The blog post to Tumblr users still rankles me.

One of the comments from the techcrunch post:

there is no hypocrisy here. We have an API that gives users 100% access to all their content on Posterous, including the original media that was uploaded, in it's full size.

This API can be found here: http://posterous.com/api/reading

There is nothing stopping people from writing Posterous exporters that go to other services. In fact, Wordpress released a Posterous importer a few months ago.

We support data portability. It's the user's content, not ours. It's our privilege to host it for our users, and we are working hard to be the best service out there.

I think it's great you have an open API. That's awesome.

But I think it's also not about what users theoretically could do (if they were able), it's about making it as easy to get data out as you are making it to get data in.

If you did that you'd look awesome. Actively demonstrating that you aren't at all afraid of the competition could be as powerful as all the import functionality.

As already pointed out, posterous does have an API for that. Why on earth should posterous work on creating an app to do the migration? They have exposed the API and their part is done.

Frankly, the guys at posterous would have been big morons if they won't already have thought about it before starting their "migrating from dying platforms" campaign. It doesn't imply moral or ethics; it's simply business sense that when you are accusing others of something, you aren't guilty of the same charges.

This doesn't do anything for twitpic other than make them look fearful and weak.

This also seems to send a signal of "get your TwitPic photos while you still can". What if TwitPic went broke at some point with all your images on it?

I can't see what TwitPic would get out of this. I could see a problem if Posterous deeplinked, but the images are the legal property of the users, so of course they're entitled.

This whole thing is seeming more and more like a brilliant PR move by Posterous. Don't the twitpic guys realize that lawyering up is just stoking the fire at this point?

How many people use TwitPic as a blog?

Because of this move, I will move from twitpic. They have the guts to tell me I have no right to do what I want with my pictures.

Twitpic made a blunder with their service, they decided not to innovate and did not build a community around their service. It may not be too late, but, am out!

Its my data. I should decide where to keeo it!

You should. Twitpic isn't obligated to help you, though.

Correct,but twitpic shouldn't try to stop others that provide tools for the data migration

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