The main point I wanted to reiterate in all of this is not so much that Strava copied Footpath. The issue as I see it is that Strava is being misleading in saying they came up with an idea themselves and can innovate quickly, when in fact the data shows otherwise.
> [Strava] came up with the idea for the mobile version in December, during one of the Strava Jam innovation retreats held each quarter. Company officials loved the idea and fast-tracked the project; Route Builder For Mobile rocketed from concept to public beta test in only two months.
> Still, I think this is the best new feature we’ve seen from Strava in years. Admittedly, it’s about the only new non-security/rebranding feature we’ve seen from Strava in years – so the bar is kinda low. If comments on past posts are any indication – people are waiting for not just one new Strava feature, but a dozen of these. Hopefully this being merely February, we’ll see many more of these types of creative and useful features added to the platform over the course of 2019.
Edit: putting my money where my mouth is, I just realized I’ve had a lifetime membership purchased in Oct 2014 but that doesn’t help you any going forward, so I just purchased the yearly elite subscription. I hope you’re able to continue to develop the app.
Nobody implements a feature from a competitor and says "hey, we copied this from X".
Look at Android & iOS, with an eternal back-and-forth copying (notifications from Android->iOS, permissions from iOS->Android, etc.)
And coming up with the idea doesn't have to mean inventing the idea, it can simply be "why don't we implement this cool feature that someone else is using?".
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
There's a difference between spending days or weeks researching competitors and formulating your own composite of something and what happened here.
Strava doesn't really have any legal risk by just admitting that they copied you. The evidence is there. It's just managers and their design subordinates wanting to save face.
As pointed out on Twitter, the Footpath app isn't complying with the attribution guidelines for the OpenStreetMap data that it uses:
OSM requests that "for a browsable electronic map, the credit should appear in the corner of the map". Footpath doesn't do this. It hides it away on a credits page.
Using the volunteer work of thousands of mappers, then refusing to comply with their stated attribution request, is really low. I had a lot of sympathy with Footpath before I realised this.
Footpath uses the Mapbox SDK under the hood, and I was following Mapbox's documentation on attribution when I integrated the SDK.
I'm following the conversation, and plan to update the attribution once some consensus arises from the discussion.
People keep bringing up Facebook/Instagram and Snapchat. Facebook/Instagram has had no issue with admitting that Snapchat was an inspiration, so that doesn't help your argument. The issue here is credit and attribution, not legality or morality.
As someone in an earlier comment pointed out, Instagram credited Snapchat.
> The one thing you never hear in Silicon Valley is an entrepreneur admit they copied someone else. Yet there in the headquarters of Facebook, the world’s most prolific product cloner, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom surprised me.
Speaking as someone who had his entire codebase ripped off and rebranded, whole cloth. (Though they forgot to edit the EULA)
Thanks for commenting, and for your work on Footpath. I hadn't seen it before, I'll be downloading it now.
You have stumbled across one of 'problems that many startups rarely address'. I've been involved with several startups and heard hundreds of pitches; and as somebody naturally focused more on the product side, I always get stung when a more pragmatic (i.e. money-orientated - usually an investor) person says "you'll be crushed as soon as you succeed!".
The simple fact is that as soon as a small service invents a product or feature, and shows that it works (such as your app), the big fish are going to ask themselves "which is cheaper: copying the feature, or buying you out?"
As you have no patents, it is naive to think that Strava (or any company) would feel any "ethical" (as you said in your article) qualms about copying you. They had an engineering team look at it (as your server logs show), and report that they could probably copy the feature in a few months i.e less money than they thought it would take to buy you out.
> The issue as I see it is that Strava is being misleading in saying they came up with an idea themselves and can innovate quickly, when in fact the data shows otherwise.
What possible reason would they have for doing otherwise? In the quotes you chose in your post, there are no explicit lies - they don't claim to have invented it, they just say they "came up with the idea for the mobile version". Why would they promote another service needlessly?
I admire you for having created a great product, which I will undoubtedly use. But if you want to create a great business in the future, think from day 1 about how to protect yourself for when it gets successful.
The questions re ethics that I'll ask their employees in interviews, should they ever happen to interview with me.
Unrelated to the footpath UI: last time I checked that historical data did not exactly lead to superior routing at all, because too many different activity types got bunched together: you don't want to get sent down that road that is only good for running/riding when it is closed to traffic for a major event once a year, which causes enough trackings to light it up like crazy on the heatmap. You don't want to go down that immensely popular gravity MTB trail on your roadbike. The list goes on. I get much better routes from a engines working on a plain OSM+elevation dataset. I don't know wether that is because I treated it before they made great improvements, because they have never really tried our because they tried and failed to make it better. I suspect that it is "never really tried" because I expect the kind of talent Strava attracts to easily ML those problems away if they would/could really put their minds to it and because lack of depth seems to be the universal rule for all Strava features outside the narrowest core of, I don't know, "competitive social".
Oh, and the "footpath UI" certainly is UI, but neither the kind of superficial change that I intended to refer to nor purely a frontend change, it certainly does need considerable algorithm work on the backend.
Personally I find "the footpath UI" very cool on a technical level, but perfectly useless on the level of actual utility for my use cases: as a cyclist I always go either completely without a pre-planned route or with very specific goals in mind (either destination only or with very opinionated tweaking for every detail of the route), never something like "this shadow, that direction, about xyz long". I understand that runners might have more firing needs ("find something nice that connects me through park X, garden Y and gets me back along the waterfront, 90 minutes at peace Z")
They have the resources to overwhelm your work within the year. Hopefully your lawyer has already put you on this path.
Edit: If there are any Fitbit folks in here, I would kill for this feature. Doubly so if my watch's GPS route corrected itself if it matched the predefined route.
I'm not so worried about any of the above putting Footpath out of business. Footpath goes after a deep niche in a way that competitors are unlikely to imitate.
Why call them competitors then?
Oh, and kudos (sorry) for committing to the niche, sounds like like you are bootstrapping because I don't think that any investor would allow that. We need more of that, not another overfunded experiment in converging on the biggest market.
You've got me half way to believing you can hold out.
I'd avoid getting into that mindset. Fight tooth and nail for what's owed without damaging your quality of life. Ideas and opportunity like this don't come around often in life.
(Strava can do what they want, I gave up on them a while ago.)
Is there a real issue with this, or are you being petty? Is there a legal complaint to be made, or are you just trying to smear Strava or gain attention for yourself? Marketing constantly exaggerates how novel or innovative new technology is.
Are there any plans for an Android or device-agnostic (i.e. web) version?
This. The implemented UI looks different, aside from the feature of letting the user trace out a route with their finger. There is nothing wrong with doing market research on another app and testing out how well their functionality works before deciding to implement similar functionality yourself is perfectly fine. If you think your idea is really novel, file a patent on it.
You created something that's being used by lots of people, but you'll never get any credit or attribution for it.
In fact, the credit goes to someone else. It's a shitty feeling. It feels violating, like someone stole from you.
It seems like the author is just venting. Just some simple acknowledgement is enough to make most people in cases like this happy. But then that mars the accomplishments of everyone who was involved with the "inspired" work.
Actually, they have, unless "cross an ethical line" means something else.
Edit: Some serious misunderstanding here.
1) An "alleged serial killer" may very well be known to be an actual serial killer, by the killer's lawyer.
2) I'm just providing an answer to parent's question to a different commenter.
3) A lawyer betraying a client is unethical, even though it may not be morally wrong.
This is not a made-up example. See the Robert Garrow case: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/the_buried_bodies_case
"This episode we consider a string of barbaric crimes by a hated man, and the attorney who, when called to defend him, also wound up defending a core principle of our legal system. When Frank Armani learned his client’s most gruesome secrets, he made a morally startling decision that stunned the world and goes to the heart of what it means to be a defense attorney - how far should lawyers go to provide the best defense to the worst people?"
This lawyer made the choice to defend a known killer, which was his professional, ethical obligation, despite being personally, morally opposed to his own actions.
but seriously, that’s a stunningly poor choice of examples. why do you want to distinguish these things in the first place?
Why? Alleged serial killers do not deserve a lawyer?
They checked out the app, took a few screenshots (23, hardly earth-shattering), and built their own version. The creator of Footpath thinks Strava's version isn't very good, so they clearly haven't copied the actual algorithm, just taken inspiration from the idea (which is arguably not that novel).
On top of that, someone working at the company got credit and praise when it wasn't even their concept to begin with.
I know that credit/acknowledgement can't be given due to legal issues, but the average person isn't going to be able to afford to fight legally.
Even if they could afford it, they would have no legal legs to stand on. It would be pure spite litigation.
E.g. me, I never heard of footpath before, the first time I stumbled over this draw&match method of route planning was with the release of the Sigma Rox 12 bike GPS, apparently long after footpath implemented it and only few months earlier than the Strava version.
Questions is an understatement, that shit was a full design doc. Mine was about 15 pages long.
Are you saying there is a number of screenshots that would be earth-shattering?
>>Wolfe did some digging into Footpath’s server logs, to see whether staff at Strava had been using Footpath. They had.
“I discovered multiple accounts and dozens of routing requests originating from Strava’s corporate IP address starting in November — literally hours after the Product Hunt tweet about Footpath,” Wolfe said. “Digging even further, a good percentage of the requests occurred over a six-hour period on December 12th and 13th. Strava’s December ‘hackathon’ where they purportedly conceived the idea? Also right around this time.”
Footpath’s Application Programming Interface (API) logs, seen by CyclingTips, do indeed show multiple instances of Footpath API access from Strava HQ between October and December 2018. Four requests were made in the day following Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover’s tweet tagging Strava. Several clusters of requests followed through November before a flurry of activity in December.
Footpath’s API logs show nearly two and a half hours of activity from a user at Strava HQ on December 12, including the creation of 23 screenshots between 5:04pm and 7:25pm. The logs also show continued access between 10:45am and 8:40pm the following day. Four further API requests were made from Strava HQ through January.
Strava didn't steal any code. They copied a feature's presentation and UX, right? I'm sure Snapchat re: Instagram would be highly interested if there was a legal or even moral issue here, especially when there's no patent protection.
Tracking screenshots is really creepy.
I'm happy to answer any questions about privacy and the data Footpath collects: https://footpathapp.com/privacy
(I don't use iOS myself; I assume if it's possible on iOS it's possible on Android as well?)
Sometimes it'll trace back just to an ISP, or to something like AWS, but larger companies will often own their own block of IPs directly.
Sigma also has this feature in one of their GPS units: http://disq.us/p/202igai
If you're browsing this website on Chrome or Firefox running on Windows or Linux then you should be pretty happy about these "craven and unfair acts". We stand on the shoulders of giants.
And remember, we're still not talking about copying code or violating patents -- we're just talking copying a simple idea. Something that still requires work to implement.
Copying ideas is the foundation of every industry. Is it immoral of you to build a better or cheaper car because Henry Ford got there first? Airplanes? Windowing systems? Command-line shells? Bicycles?
This is frankly just BS. You cannot hold ownership over an idea -- it's just not possible. And when you release your idea from your brain into the world, other people will learn it. You can't force them to not use your idea for themselves because you thought of it first.
Who said it was?
> Big companies can afford to patent ideas they steal from small ones that can't
Has Strava patented this idea? If not, how is that relevant?
People will copy. Footpath, like any other app, used a lot of mapping and mobile app ideas invented by dozens of people over the years. Hell, they literally use (not just copy) OpenStreetMaps, yet you won't see that in the App Store description, just a mention in their website's FAQ. That's just how innovation works, everyone copies from everyone, and we're better off for it.
OSM wants people to use the data! That's why we're making the data and making a map database. :)
But the OSM licence requires they attribution, in this case it would mean displaying it on the screen. Which they don't do. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
I think one of the reason "big tech" is so successful in general is that, any time anyone might have a disruptive idea, they can just put tons of money and engineers toward replicating it. The IP, profits, and talent remain (and continue drifting toward) those large companies.
Every company on the planet keeps tabs on what their competition is doing.
Not every 'feature' is going to become a company, as supposedly Steve Jobs told the DropBox founders when they were showing him DropBox. 
I completely agree with you about big-tech having an easy time duplicating a disruptive idea, which is why you actually need to build a disruptive business.
Companies use this jargon of `breakthrough in the space`, it has been nonsense since Apple introduced FaceTime as a breakthrough in the space even though you had video chat for ages before that.
This, to me, is complete BS. I mean, yes, it would be nice if PMs would actually attribute it and then in companies press release it would mention that but that's just a very naive expectation.
To me this feels like someone considering doing "swipe to take action" checking out existing apps to see how it's been done elsewhere (e.g. I don't think that Tinder(?) has grounds to go after PocketCasts or MileIQ because both offer "swipe-to-act" features in their UIs).
I think the supposed differentiating feature of Strava's new feature is that they're supposedly integrating the "draw a rough map" feature with their huge backend database of where people run/bike rather than basing a route just on street/trail data. A significant test would be if you sketch a path in both applications that's one street off from a popular running path, do either or both give a result that puts you where people are already running?
When you’re building functionality that’s whizz-bang cool and brand defining but that’s totally on display, when it’s one of those things that once you see it it becomes “obvious” that was the way to do it... a provisional patent could be the best ~$100 you ever spent.
IANAL, but provisional patents are double-edge swords. You have to file before an offer to sale or launching the functionality in your app, and you need to describe in enough detail what it is you are doing and how it is that you do it. You don’t have to translate this into patent-ese claims at this stage. But any claim you ultimately make in a full application claiming the priority date of the provisional must be fully supported by the provisional text, so it’s good to put everything you’ve thought of to that point in.
The other side the sword is that as soon as you file, a clock starts counting, you have 1 year from filing to make a full-blown patent application based on the provisional, or everything in the provisional then becomes theoretically unpatentable. Since full patent applications are expensive, it’s like a liability on your balance sheet for the next 12 months, because there will be pressure to spend the $10k+ to not “lose” the provisional.
One smaller benefit is that the priority date on the provisional is iron-clad protection against any patent on the same subject matter that is filed after that date.
I would not at all be surprised in a case like this to see Strava try to file some patents on the (copy-cat) feature they just launched. They might not go head-on, but try to patent back-end algorithms that they developed “independently” that probably line up closely with what Footpath already has — because it’s the natural way to approach the problem.
Drawing a line on a map and having it snap to a route is probably not in itself novel. There may be things that Footpath is doing that turn a “cool idea in practice which doesn’t really work” into a exciting user experience that delivers a lot of value to their customers. Perhaps Footpath has even spent a large share of their limited engineering resources refining the feature to this point. That hypothetical situation to me is exactly when you at least file the provisional.
Even if you never file the utility patent, you can claim “Patent Pending” and [US] competitors would be more likely to hold off on cloning your UX straight away, or could maybe tilt the scales toward an acquisition.
A generic “snap drawing to route” should not be patentable due to I’m sure copious prior art. The question is if there’s something unique Footpath is doing to make it work particularly well for their users (TFA hunted that there was) that breaks new ground.
What is a good solution? Copying but giving attribution?
Instead, go out and create great things. And then tell the story of how you triumphed by thinking hard and moving fast.
Meanwhile, us Strava users get a cool new functionality.
There's a simple resolution here: Strava should switch to a more usable interface design. What works better is allowing someone to create a series of dots which they can drag around to adjust, while allowing zooming and panning during route creation.
Strava needs to start over on this feature anyway.
Most Footpath users have specific routes in mind and prefer zooming + panning to draw their route in multiple, shorter segments. Footpath has some editing tools that improve upon the hold & drag UI you'd normally find on the web.
However, and forgive the ignorant question, how different is Footpath to EasyRoute (which is free, & supports uploads to Wahoo, Strava [iirc], and others)?
One aspect of EasyRoute that is pretty awesome is its support for exporting turn instructions to Wahoo + Garmin GPS devices via FIT files (the developer works for Wahoo by day), while Footpath only supports exporting the route data to GPX files right now.
Hope that helps.
It was the FIT export that had me download it initially. Not sure it supports turn-by-turn though; haven't tried recently.
I'll definitely be sticking to their web version, which they've had for years.
I honestly don't know how they support an app of such complexity and full features.
Kudos to them.
One example: if you look at similar, more serious training apps in the sector (i.e. Training Peaks) the amount of analytics and richness around training plans is just night and day. Strava has had all the data to present a really great analytics experience and they don't.
I know I'm arguing for Strava "stealing" more features from competitors, but in this case it would be how competition should work. Two entities of similar power push each other to improve features. Instead, Strava relies on its network effect to essentially be a comfortable monopoly, and Training Peaks knows that it likely won't be successful at putting together a social network in a similar way (Garmin, the biggest equipment maker in the space has tried and has essentially gotten no traction).
It's not the worst thing in the world, these are not real problems. So what, I pay for 2+ sites when 1 good innovative one would be enough. But for Strava to pretend it's innovative, when at best it's cribbing from actual innovators below their size, is pretty rich.
There's been plenty of new app features and user interface updates over the years. I think you're conflating your needs of a highly technical training plan with goals and demographics of the Strava app.
That said, I'm still waiting for Strava, Zwift and Trainer Road to merge into the mega one-stop-shop. ;)
Edit: Also add RideWithGPS to my uber-list of one company, since I use them to generate my route maps over Strava's version, because I think it's better, which actually goes to show that the little guy can still compete. (Probably a small niche market, though.)
You could almost say this about any successful app. Facebook is by no means the best at any of the things they do, but they're the site that has the highest adoption rates, so it is what it is.
For whatever reason, people prefer Strava over the alternatives, and so they get to be the best as long as people don't go elsewhere.
Personally, I use Garmin Connect and Strava both, each for different reasons, and it really rounds out my data and social network needs.
So I don’t bother with Strava anymore. I just use the default Apple workout app.