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Replit used legal threats to kill my open-source project (intuitiveexplanations.com)
4018 points by raxod502 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 1274 comments

> Naturally, I took down my project right away...

So a CEO bullied you. He threatened to have lawyers look at something, accused you of behaving poorly, and accused you of being difficult. He is being manipulative. He is trying to guilt / scare you into stopping. And it worked.

For all readers... do not be afraid of lawyers. Especially if nobody has even talked to them yet. Lawyers do not like to lose cases, so will not push a losing agenda. Yet they also must do what their client asks, so lawyers looking into a concern, or even sending nastygrams... those are meaningless actions. It only becomes meaningful if and when if their lawyers indicate they believe they really have a case, or if your own lawyer believes they have a case. Everything before that is posturing and bullying.

If I were in the same situation as OP, I'd state that my intent was positive, ask to be informed of the results of discussions with attorneys, and wish them to have a nice day. Admit no wrong, make no apologies, ignore irrelevant statements (in particular personal attacks), and just let it slide until they take a real action of some kind.

Once they do take an action, then it might be appropriate to do what they want. But seriously... stop letting people be bullies.

Counterpoint: be afraid of lawyers. They may not be able to win s judgment against you, but they can easily bankrupt you. Remember the case where a man criticized Proctorio and was hit with a SLAPP lawsuit aimed to silence him. He ended up spending 100k on legal costs and the case is only beginning. He would have been bankrupt despite being 100% legally in the right.

Fortunately for him, EFF decided to support him afterwards. But do not count on EFF paying for your legal defence.






It goes both ways. Imagine Replit’s attorney going after OP. If OP didn’t take down the site, then suing them is going to be a huge expense & waste of time. Is Replit really gonna pay some corporate attorney $600-ish per hour to harass someone? You don’t even need a lawyer to show up in court and say “I’m a broke ass new grad, and these guys are trying to take down my website. I don’t even know why, but I’m dragging it out because I don’t like being bullied.” A good attorney would say “it costs nothing to demand we take this site down, but if the kid wants to fight us, do you really think it’ll be worth the effort? I’m expensive and this is not a threat to your business.” A bad attorney will just bleed Replit dry to accomplish very little.

If you sue me, I’ll just say “ok, see you in court, let me know if you need anything for discovery“. You’ll be spending lots of money and I’ll be spending nothing. It’s only expensive for me if I get an attorney, and I don’t need one. What happens if we go to court and lose? I have to take down my website? If there’s one lawyer in town, they drive a Chevrolet. If there’s two lawyers in town, they both drive Cadillacs.

Law suits cost both parties a whole truckload of money - replit almost certainly has a larger war chest than you and can outlast you.

It's easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize this person for not being a martyr to the cause of our terrible legal system - but, while such a lawsuit would never throw you out of your home, it could very quickly drain your personal savings which, if you have a family that's reliant on that savings for future education, could be devastating.

It is 100% reasonable and a good idea to reach out to the EFF if you're being cyber-bullied by a corp with an axe to grind, but standing on your own in this sort of a scenario is certainly going to inflict a fair bit of pain on the aggressor - but it's likely going to inflict a whole lot more pain on you. Lawsuits like this can be tied up in appeals essentially until we die of heat death given our legal system unless you get extremely likely.

Additionally I feel like you're making the assumption that the work a lawyer does is essentially busy work - discovery is an insanely expensive process to comply with and messing something up during discovery and accidentally deleting a key piece of evidence won't get you a "Well, you're just a rando - we'll let it slide" from the judge.

Lastly - if the trial actually did end up going to court, it's extremely likely you're going to lose without the assistance of a legal professional, US law is insanely complicated and I can almost guarantee that your current employer is breaking some law on a technicality currently, I have no idea what it is - but without legal council neither will you.

If you don't own your home, I fail to see how it could never throw you out of your home.

Actually - I'm quite uncertain how bankruptcy laws interact with renting in the US so maybe that is a possibility.

In a BK, some states may force you to liquidate a house if there’s equity in the home. Other states will let you keep a primary home.

Florida allows you to keep your primary residence, regardless of value, even if there were criminal acts involved. Texas is less forgiving and does not indemnify your personal residence against criminal acts, but in exchange allows you to keep two horses.

Huh - I wonder if any texans have ever "smuggled" wealth through a bankruptcy by purchasing expensive stallions. Those can run up to 70 million (according to my google fu)

Two horses?! I can't tell if you're joking. I sincerely hope this is true. I'm imagining a sad Texas cowboy riding off into the sunset with just his two favorite mounts. "At least they didn't take mah horse!"

Pretty much every state has a bunch of random stuff that's protected. The list never really gets shorter since protecting types of property that statistically nobody has anymore doesn't generally cause issues.

I googled "texas bankruptcy horses" and it seems a real thing, e.g. [1]:

Another good aspect of Texas bankruptcy code for farmers and ranchers is the specific delineations of property that are allowed to be kept during bankruptcy: 2 horses, mules or donkeys and a saddle, blanket and bridle for each, 12 head of cattle, 60 head of other types of livestock, 12 fowl and pets. If you’re a farmer or rancher considering bankruptcy, Chapter 12 could be a better option—a bankruptcy allowed specifically for the debts of a family farmer or fisherman.

[1] https://www.chancemcgheelaw.com/sanantoniobankruptcyblog/tex...

Very interesting and rather amusing stuff, must be an old law? I wonder why no one pushed to upgrade the "horses" to "motorcycles" or "cars".

Believe it or not a lot of people in Texas still live a rural lifestyle! There’s a lot more going on in the land outside the major cities than suburbs.

Not surprising - TX is >95% rural

It doesn't have to cost a truckload. You can spend a truckload on lawyers if you want, but realistically, what is the maximum damages that a judge would award if replit won this case? $1k? Maybe? I wouldn't be surprised if there were lawyers willing to defend this obvious case on a no win no fee basis.

   what is the maximum damages that a judge would award if replit won this case? $1k? Maybe? 
IMNAL, but with trade secrete theft I imagine the damages awarded could be whatever the other side is able to convince was the harm done. E.g. "... defendant open-sourced our trade secretes, which was forked by competitors, causing irreparable harm ... seeking $15MM in damages ... and legal fees, etc.."

Yeah, with 37 visitors in a month? You need an incredibly corrupt justice system to make that work.

It's not the visitors they are going to bring up in the court. The angle they push will probably be something along the lines of: the intern stole our intellectual property and put them out there on GitHub. There is no way we can put the cat back in the bag. As a result of this disclosure, we are suffering a financial loss of 100s of millions of dollars. Even if his website has 0 visitors, now thousands of people have access to our intellectual property and they collectively have a lot of visitors.

I mean, it's not like Anthony Levandowski put millions of self-driving cars in the streets and took business away from Waymo's self-driving cars. Just by copying Google's intellectual property, not even publishing it for the whole world to see, he committed an offence that cost 18 months in prison and more than 100 million dollars in fines.

Of course, this lawsuit may not have gotten that far, as it seems quite baseless. But it would have taken years of mental turmoil and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for that to be established. And that is if the threat of the unfavourable outcome did not cause another tragedy like Aaron Swartz's.

In a working justice system the judge takes one look at all that and dismisses the case, then fines them for a frivolous waste of the court’s time.

Well, then I guess US and Canada's justice systems are non-working. Because that's not what will happen in practice. Also, there is a lot of legal work that needs to get done even before getting in front of a judge, and those can cost 100 ks on their own.

As far as I read the news and if it is true, then indeed I believe the US system is quite broken. Seems geared towards screwing over and bullying the poor.

Right, the “cat our of the bag” argument. Also similar to the ones used in the Napster, Torrent, eMule file-sharing persecutions whereby any forgettable film shared would instantly tally as a lost sale for each-and-every participant to the platform. :/

A guy making 30k a year got a reduced judgement of 2 million dollars against him for distributing copies of Nintendo Switch games on the basis that each download was a lost sale.

Only issue? The Nintendo Switch can't play copies of a game unless you painstakingly modify it.

So every person who visited his site had already decided not to purchase games and exploited gaps in Nintendo's DRM on their personal devices, yet our justice saw fit to permanently ruin him with the incredibly nonsensical argument Nintendo presented.

Our justice system is broken in more ways than are apparent.

That's copyright. Claiming 100k in damages from copyright infringement is not hard under US law.

If there was trade secret - then there's no minimum, it's all however much a lawyer can convince the judge that the company is loosing.

I think you have way too much faith that a legal proceeding will reveal the "truth" about your intentions and actions. It's about competing narratives and interpretations of "facts".

If it goes to a legal proceeding, it is about convincing a stranger and lay-person (i.e. Judge, or perhaps even worse a group of jurors), that you didn't violate the law. You have to do this while the other side is doing their very best to convince the same stranger that you are a devious thief who did irreparable harm to their company and cost them millions in damages (or some other absurdly large number). They will paint everything you did and say as part of your plan to steal from and damage their company. They will have highly qualified experts submit very convincing reports, and testify, that what you did was trade secrete theft, and caused immense damage. Your only defense will be to push your own narrative that can counter all of this, sufficiently to get you off the hook. You'll need at least a lawyer, perhaps experts of your own, and all the cost that this entails. This will be a big deal to your life, but will be a business expense (i.e. before taxes) for the company suing you.

Of course you get a lawyer before it goes to court. However you can do the first round without a lawyer. Just a simple letter saying you dispute a claim is enough in some cases to tell the others you are serious. If you get a response after that, then find a lawyer.

You could probably get a response letter drawn up probono by the EFF for the initial claim - but honestly that response letter would likely cost you less than 100$ to have drawn up by a lawyer which is likely a more valuable way for you to spend your time to make sure everything is perfect.

Or simply ignore them until they actually sue you.

I'd say ignore is better than DIY your response.

Possibly? But I'd primarily say IANAL and you're best off spending the fifty bucks to get a half hour of some lawyer's time on the phone.

A while ago I needed to briefly retain a lawyer to navigate a complex contract with my employer, there may be terrible lawyers out there but the person I reached out to was exceedingly thorough in explaining things (and I, as a dev, had lots of rules-lawyery questions to throw at them), quite prompt in their response and charged a modest fee.

Speaking to a lawyer will absolutely cost you more than a coffee, but it's not that pricey in the scheme of things compared to getting in legal hot water.

totally agree. I was picking the least bad option between: a) ignore, b) DIY response. Of course, my opinion, and IMNAL :)

Reply: "Thank you for your letter. I am awaiting your writ." Say nothing else.

Without a writ, you have little idea what the substance of their legal claim is; there's no purpose in hiring an attorney, because there's nothing for him to work on. So you are saying: "I don't fold to hollow threats and bullying. If you have a proper legal claim, make a proper legal claim."

If you then get a writ, show it to a lawyer.

If you have no substantial assets, it might be worth pointing that out (once the writ arrives). Nobody wants to sue a man of straw.

Ignoring is in general the worst thing you can do, if they do anything more it looks bad on you in court.

I do agree with those who say get a lawyer to send your response. However you should still do the research yourself - to the best of your ability. You can save yourself some expensive lawyer time by knowing the basics and having a potential draft (be careful: make it clear that you do not have any emotional ties to it so the lawyer is free to tear it up) of your response.

>> It goes both ways. Imagine Replit’s attorney going after OP. If OP didn’t take down the site, then suing them is going to be a huge expense & waste of time. Is Replit really gonna pay some corporate attorney $600-ish per hour to harass someone? You don’t even need a lawyer to show up in court and say “I’m a broke ass new grad, and these guys are trying to take down my website. I don’t even know why, but I’m dragging it out because I don’t like being bullied.”

You are really underestimating how petty a lot of people are. I was sued for way less than this and the company suing me stood to gain nothing. Companies often have lawyers on retainer for this reason.

You also underestimate the massive stress a lawsuit entails.

I think the problem here is that Repl.it’s CEO is not spending his own money.

Do you think Repl.it's investors and board will be happy with the company using its money to pursue this lawsuit that is unlikely to prevail?

They probably wouldn't even notice - especially if the lawyer's on retainer

John Oliver is actually a really good source for this sort of point as he dedicated an episode[1] to the trials and tribulations of his lawsuit against Murray Energy - something he described as a SLAPP suit which I think is a fair viewpoint.

The replit case is especially interesting since it could be a lot more personal (because the dev behind it previously worked for them and people hold grudges) and also because it might actually be a lot more valid then a lot of other frivolous C&Ds we see (since they were a former employee and it would be impossible to claim they were unaware of how replit worked at a very basic level). I think this lawsuit is a lot riskier than most and replit certainly does have a leg to stand on in open court.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN8bJb8biZU

This is dangerous advice if the lawyer fees get paid by the loser of the suit like they do in some cases. ianal but i'd look into that before taking this tactic.

In the US there is no loser pays clause - except that you can sue for legal fees as well. There are pros and cons of both, with no clear winner.

In the US it’s way more complicated than that, and not just because there are 50 states that all have their own laws on whether or not the prevailing party can recover costs and it furthermore depends on the specific action.

FALSE! FALSE FALSE FALSE! There are many, many circumstances in the US where the loser has to pay costs and attorneys fees. Like copyright infringement. https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html#505

TRUE TRUE TRUE TRUE! there is no "loser pays costs" rule/law for the entire US. it is a case by case thing, determined by a judge, in most cases, even in copyright cases. the link you posted even says that.

the comment you replied to was saying that there is no nation-wide law protecting victims of unnecessary or unjust lawsuits, and there isn't. you simply cannot count on getting your costs paid for if you win in any case.

No. They were replying to & contesting a comment which stated that there was a risk of having to pay legal fees. That risk is indeed there.

The attorney will never say this. They will bill hours after hours because it is in their best interest.

The attorney is bound to act in their client's best interest. A bad lawyer might do that, but a good lawyer will indeed tell their client when something isn't worth the cost, despite their own financial interest.

Some people enjoy harassing other people with lawyers. Saying it’s not in their interest is meaningless when someone is willing to spend 100k on a neighborhood fence dispute.

The costs for replit isn’t the same as the costs for an individual. For a corporation the cost is already budgeted in and pre-taxes so why do they care?

To be honest though - replit is still going to pay significantly more in legal fees than the individual. That all said they almost certainly bear that cost while the individual may not be able to do so.

Because it’s a time suck. Even if you have deep pockets, you have limited time. And potentially bad PR.

By the time the threat is out, the PR damage is already impeding (see: this thread). And spending a few thousand dollar is simply not going to hurt a large corporation as much as it hurts an individual. By the way, this is similar for time: A large corporation sends a mail to the legal department and the case is taken care of. You need to find a lawyer, find the money, collect the evidence ...

If a client insists there was trade secrete theft, a good attorney would do their very best to argue this case and seek legal remedies. Most attorneys, being non-technical, would have to rely on experts to outline exactly what/how a trade secrete theft occurred.

Did you read any of the stories what a tech company did to an employee who complained about safety issues at the plant? Tried to get him SWATted up by lying to the police. People are extremely petty, and just because people have well paid jobs doesn't mean they are reasonable in any way.

If you post a link, it'd be interesting to have a look

I originally read about it on HN, but don't recall where. I found this Bloomberg article about the issue:


(I originally didn't want to mention the name of the company since you always get very aggressive comments when you post about this company on HN)

Thanks for the link, I didn't know about that before.

> always get very aggressive comments when you post about this company on HN

I wouldn't be surprised, I suppose some/many people here work there, or have such c*rs

> What happens if we go to court and lose? I have to take down my website?

No. What happens if you lose is you pay up to $150,000, plus costs and attorney fees, plus possible criminal penalties. (Here in the US, anyway.)


Being an attorney does not give you the power to automatically bankrupt someone, just like owning a gun doesn’t mean you can point it at people and automatically get them to do what you want. Picking a frivolous fight with the wrong person can go very poorly for you.

I guess the main point I’m trying to say that one doesn’t have to fold the second someone threatens you with legal action, even if you don’t have an attorney. A porcupine doesn’t automatically shed all its quills and throw themselves in a mountain lion’s mouth as soon as the mountain lion eyeballs it with a hungry look. You can f*!with people who f* with you. They may just go away when they realize you’re not going to make it easy for them.

The kid who posted this website could get a notarized affidavit saying he didn’t steal any IP, here’s how he got all the stuff, provide links to all the publicly available information, that he simply state that he built a hacky weekend project I good faith, and that no matter how much they pursued him or time they wasted on him, it wouldn’t change the facts of the case. The more time the attorneys spend going after him, the more they’re just gonna waste their own time and look super dumb. Say they are free to pursue whatever legal action they want, just like you’re free to stand up to a frivolous, insecure bully with too much money and free time. Take all the fun out of it for them, don’t roll over and take it because you’re afraid of being potentially bankrupted.

> The kid who posted this website could get a notarized affidavit saying ...

Sure. He could. It would mean absolutely nothing, but he could.

> Say they are free to pursue whatever legal action they want, just like you’re free to stand up to a frivolous, insecure bully with too much money and free time.

Great. Are you going to pay for it? (And pay for it when he loses since it isn't even slightly frivolous?)

A drawn out legal case can bankrupt you not only financially but mentally, too.

The quantity and the length of emails sent by the author, in addition to the writeup, suggest they spent considerable time worrying about the situation.

And it’s only been a few days. Imagine if this becomes a multi-year case.

I don't really know how the civil trial works in the US, but in my country you are not required to participate to the process and thus have a lawyer (while it's required for a penal trial). You can decide to not defend yourself, that doesn't means that the other party wins, but that you don't take part in the process, and thus it's only the accusation that can provide proofs and similar things, and then the judge decides.

In that case, I wouldn't even bother to try to defend myself, if he doesn't have any proof that something is copied as it seems, no way he will win. Worse case scenario and you are guilty, fine, you will have to take down your project? You will have to pay a compensation? How much can this be quantified? 100$? 1000$? I don't think more than that. And if you refuse to pay? They have to do another trial just to have your money. In the end, they will end up spending a lot of money and maybe in 10 years they hope to get something back (most probably nothing).

In the US, if you don't show up, you lose by default. Sometimes you can get that default judgement vacated if you show up later, but only if you can show good a good reason, such as you weren't aware of the case because the plantiff did not properly serve notice, etc.

Note: Ian Linkletter, the one who had spent 100k in april, is not the guy being backed by EFF.

Linkletter has a gofundme here: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/stand-against-proctorio

I've donated, and would recommend others do the same.

Not just the lawyers, but future employers as well.

It doesn't matter what the value proposition was, this will be a stain on his name "the guy who open sources the stuff he likes in our design/projects"

>They may not be able to win a judgment against you, but they can easily bankrupt you.

this depends on where the case is brought really. and if they can get any money from you there. Which is often partially effected by where you live.

How does this even work? If someone sues me, but they have no case, and I’m not interested, why would I even defend myself. Even presenting no evidence the judge would rule in my favour.

If you fail to appear for a court proceeding, the judge will decide in favor of the plaintiff (the person suing you):

> Default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of either party based on some failure to take action by the other party. Most often, it is a judgment in favor of a plaintiff when the defendant has not responded to a summons or has failed to appear before a court of law. The failure to take action is the default. The default judgment is the relief requested in the party's original petition.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_judgment

Countercounter point: do not be afraid of lawyers, be _very_ afraid of legal systems.

> He would have been bankrupt despite being 100% legally in the right. Fortunately for him, EFF decided to support him afterwards. But do not count on EFF paying for your legal defence.

Why? If you are 100% legally in the right then why wouldn't an entity with sufficient resources whose agenda is in line with that of yours support you? They will get all the expenses compensated after you+they win, won't they?

The loser only pays the winner's legal fees when required [1]. I'm not a lawyer but iiuc as long as you file in one of 21 states [2] you shouldn't expect to have to payout for making a pointless lawsuit.

Anecdotally, there were a lot of lawsuits claiming fraud & etc in the recent US president elections and I haven't heard of a single case where they had to pay for losing them.

[1]: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/attorney-fees-does-l... [2]: https://www.medialaw.org/topics-page/anti-slapp

because the legal system is human, a persuasive case is just as important as a legally backed case

Also, can only field X amount of cases per period, unless they want to be dealing with burnout etc

As much as I also hate the idea of giving in to legal threats/bullying, I don't think this is very good advice.

Lawyers may not like losing cases, but they like billable hours even more. So as long as their client is paying, they will follow their wishes as best they can.

Even "meaningless actions" such as "cease and desist" letters or "demand" letters probably need consultation with a lawyer for a proper response. This "admit no wrong" advice can actually be tricky. What may seem like an innocent or innocuous comment could make your situation worse.

By the time you have an actual civil action against you, you may have missed the opportunity to end the matter without getting to this point.

If you want justice, be prepared to pay for it.

If you're unable to pay for it, you will not receive justice.

I am aware that this is not the 1950's superman definition of justice. It is the "welcome to America" version of justice, that you often can't even get if you can pay for it, depending on who you are.

So, you pick that fight. I've got a family and a life I need to protect; I'll stand on the sidelines and watch, thank you very much.


> I am aware that this is not the 1950's superman definition of justice.

It’s not any definition of justice, its simply the rule of the powerful over the weak.

For those living in America, that’s what they can expect. It does no-one any good to pretend otherwise.

> For those living in America, that’s what they can expect. It does no-one any good to pretend otherwise.

Be that as it may, it likewise does no one any good to pretend it has any connection to justice.

> I am aware that this is not the 1950's superman definition of justice. It is the "welcome to America" version of justice, that you often can't even get if you can pay for it, depending on who you are.

> Be that as it may, it likewise does no one any good to pretend it has any connection to justice.

...because someone on HN is going to be confused by the witty criticism of justice, and experience actual moral or intellectual confusion? Does this not strike you as linguistic pedantry?

Because we should never accept it. Never let it fade into the background of life.

"You found paradise in America, you had a good trade, you made a good living, the police protected you, and there were courts of law."

So, at least in the US justice system it's one dollar, one vote.

I don't think that's quite fair since the US justice system does allow for and has come to include advocacy organizations like the EFF and NAACP, and, even without those organizations usually individuals will end up paying significantly less for the same legal services (since most lawyers do have morals and will try and make their services affordable to less well off clients).

But... other than those allowances... Yea, money is pretty important in the US justice system.

I mean... those are organisations that are support a collective ideal.

People that buy into that ideal fund those organisations so they can provide legal support to enact those principles.

The existence of those organisations (or pro bono work) is not a counterpoint to the premise that the US justice system is predicated upon money (and the implied corrolary that the level of justice you receive is proportional to the amount you pay for it).

(having said that, I don't necessarily agree with the flippant comment that you are replying to, but still).

Stop that. We aren’t supposed to say the quiet part out loud.

It's absolutely disgusting for that to be the case. Tell me again why we should treat America's government as anything other than evil and despotic?

Because it’s not North Korea’s government? You say that as if organizing and running a beneficent and just government is a trivial matter. People are evil and despotic, and every government is full of people.

>You say that as if organizing and running a beneficent and just government is a trivial matter.

Not really. The things this country has done since its inception are deplorable, and yet we have people in this country that want to prevent people from learning more accurate history to keep fake, nationalist "patriotism" at an all time high. They want the system to be cruel and hurtful. What is there in America to even be proud of nowadays?

There's more freedom of speech than other western countries, there's a greater ability to bear arms than other countries...

It’s not trivial, but somehow most western countries manage to do way better than US.

I appreciate the sentiment here, but this strikes me as very dangerous advice, especially framed as a blanket rule. Even more so when dealing with someone who has presumably far greater resources.

There's no way you can know what this person's legal exposure might be without seeing their employment contract. They may well be completely in the right and this CEO is all bluster, but it's unequivocally bad advice to suggest that there's nothing to be concerned about based on the information you have.

Even beyond that, I've (unfortunately) known companies that were entirely willing to dump money into lawsuits they knew they had no hope of winning just to set the precedent that you should not cross them or they'll bury you in legal expenses.

In the end your advice may be exactly right, but it's definitely not reasonable to make these kinds of blanket assumptions.

I'm not afraid of lawyers, but I've been sued (a real estate matter) and I am definitely afraid of the U.S. civil law process.

I was on the jury for a civil real estate case that was rather open and shut from the jury's point of view. Maximum damages awarded would have been in the 5 figures. It was on the docket for 4 years.

In the context of the article I took that as a gesture of goodwill while trying to talk out the misunderstanding. They had a relationship before this happened and it sounded like he wanted to maintain that relationship.

In the end, this was a hobby project for the author, and I can understand he might not want to deal with the stress involved with possible legislation. The bully is the aggressor here and lets try not to blame the victim.

yep. we just won't ever use replit. their name is mud now.

I'm still hoping the CEO will come out of the woods with something like: "I'm sorry, I had a shitty day and acted like an ass." But that might be more grown-up than is realistic...

> I'm still hoping the CEO will come out of the woods with something like: "I'm sorry, I had a shitty day and acted like an ass."

We hope, but this is what we got:

> As a matter of principle, when someone goes into your home and steals from you, even if it's not material, you have to respond.

and the riju forking has begun

> Lawyers do not like to lose cases, so will not push a losing agenda.

They don't need to push it very far to cause a lot of harm to an individual and relatively bury them in costs.

especially a "new grad with no company, no funding, and no commercial ambitions"

.. doing an open source project that does what a bunch of other sites are doing to some extent. It looks like he was about a week into it. Choose your battles. I'm guessing this really isn't a big ambition for this guy, but he probably wanted to flesh-out the concept for his own satisfaction having not gotten that far during his internship. That motivation is not new to me, but I think standing down and moving on to some other interest was probably a good idea. Now he's blogging about it instead.

Dude, move on already.

I actually really appreciate that he wrote this post:

1. What if I'm considering working for Replit? This behaviour would give me second thoughts. 2. Imagine I'm a VC firm deciding whether or not to invest in them. I don't want me money being used to pursue a frivolous lawsuit against a website that isn't a commercial threat and probably isn't using their IP anyway.

Eh, personally I appreciate the blog. It's good to know who to avoid in the industry, and the accusation about trade secrets seems way overblown and egotistical. It's not that hard to figure out how to run a container when you push a button, or else said sites wouldn't be so common.

That's true, but there is no legal backing behind a laywer-initiated nastygram, so why fold before it even gets to that point?

It's true, the US legal system can be hopelessly expensive, but it is still possible to push back before it gets to that point if you're sure you're in the right.

amasad is a regular HN'er who's very active in all posts related to repl.it.

Very immature behavior on Amjad's part. I'm considering pulling our corporations subscription and moving to Stackblitz now....

amasad is a regular HN'er who's very active in all posts related to repl.it.

Until, curiously enough, today...

My guess is, his "top lawyers" and other advisors gave him instructions which amounted to - in layman's terms - "Dude, STFU."

Edit: disregard, he did show up and start commenting here.

A wise man knows when to remain silent.

Not that that's stopped Amjad from commenting anyway: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27428400.

So based on those tweets, I suspect the following scenario is a possibility, or was perceived as a possibility by Amjad:

Radon interned at repl.it and asked a lot of questions. To be clear, asking a lot of questions is a good thing for career development in that it results in learning a ton, and typically something you definitely want your full-time employees to do, but not necessarily what you're expecting from an internship/temp worker arrangement.

Amjad apparently had some awareness of Radon being a particularly curious intern. Again, nothing wrong with that!

Radon then published an open-source hobby project which seemed to build on many of the teachings from repl.it. Based on what we can see of the discussion, it's likely that Radon wouldn't have had the exposure to the problem domain in order to build the solution he did, as fast as he did, had he not spent time at repl.it and asked a lot of questions.

Radon then showed this to Amjad, and as all of the above dawned on Amjad, he reacted incredibly poorly. The analogy he's using in his tweets ("someone goes into your house and steals from you, even if it's not material") suggests he's likening it to inviting a friend over to a dinner party at your mansion, having the guest ask a bunch of questions about the design, excuse themselves to use the restroom, and poke around in all the closets along the way. Next week they invite you over to the 1-bedroom flat that they regularly livestream from, and you see they've applied lessons they learned while asking questions and wandering around your place, to their interior design.

You don't feel robbed, but you may certainly feel a bit slighted. If you're a private person you might be a bit miffed about how your years of hard work has been distilled into something more spartan and put on display for others to copy.

Even if I think Amjad's response was quite over the top, I do think it's fair to be a bit surprised to learn that your guest spent a significant portion of their visit poking around in your closets instead of focusing on the dinner company. In the context of an internship, it comes across as mildly jarring to point out that you were actually just after interior design lessons rather than enjoying dinner for the sake of dinner.

I'm not proposing this is in reality close to what happened; Radon seems highly motivated and prolific, and was probably an amazing intern. I also don't think he did anything legally in the wrong, even if unconventional and potentially offensive.

Amjad's reaction was totally inappropriate, but based on his tweets there is at least some reason to the rhyme.

I follow your line of thinking, but what's missing from it is that repl.it isn't unique at it's core. There are a ton of "multi language repls", many of which existed before repl.it, before Amjad's jsConsole, etc.

What repl.it is doing that is unique is the amount of investment into all of the "extra" stuff around it.

The "number of languages" thing isn't secret sauce either...clearly once you have the base repl working, iterating more languages is pretty straightforward.

Sounds like he just learned about the domain while working for the company, there was no stealing of trade secrets or IP violation.

Which is extremely wise advice honestly. This lawsuit is a bit muddled and less clear cut than folks have been portraying it. Speaking out in a forum like this may salve your pride but it isn't going to result in absolutely anything that's helpful legally - it can cause only harm.

(And honestly - most HNers would just take the opportunity to bash him if he showed his face, so for his mental health as well I am happy he's keeping to the shadows)

Agreed - this is very immature behavior and they will lose lots of goodwill and clients as a result of ego.

Was considering subscription, not anymore.

While studying fine art I built a site that was intended to experiment with disrupting advertising by picking on a bullshit pseudo-scientific term, "bifidus digestivum", used by the company Danone as the live ingredient in their yoghurts, and ranking highly for that term on Google - it eventually got to the number 1 spot. Danone's legal team got in touch and we danced around each other for a bit. It was clear that the original domain used their trademark and that would be enforceable in court, so I gave that to them a couple of weeks after setting up a new domain that wasn't just their trademark and redirecting all the traffic until Google caught up with the move: https://whatisbifidusregularis.org/ (They'd changed the magic ingredient's name by that point, partially because of the ridicule the initial name provoked). I replied to their emails addressing their points - no, I was not making any money from it so there's no commercial harm, I was just laying out the facts so there was no defamation etc. and after two or three bits of back-and-forth they went away. The site's had something like 500,000 visits since I built it in the late 2000s, which isn't a lot in the large scheme of things, but I hope it helped people who wondered whether it was bullshit know that it was bullshit.

I'm speaking from a UK perspective, so perhaps in the US it's different. While ignoring lawyers is stupid, waiting until they actually get in touch and looking at the merits of their case is not stupid, as the parent comment says. Then if they seem minded to pursue it anyway then fine, back down. But companies don't want to spend loads of money suing someone with no money either. The people who really lose are the people who entirely ignore the lawyers or are determined to take a case to court when they don't have the money for it out of some misplaced sense of righteousness.

Sorry, are you going to pay my legal fees?

If yes, please by all means reach out.

You don't have contact information listed in your profile. I posted a comment in this thread offering to pay for your legal fees (and many people, upon seeing my comment, contacted me offering to help). It'd be helpful if you could publish your contact info in your HN profile too.

What legal fees? It costs you nothing to ignore the posturing of bullies.

You can ignore the stuff from the CEO, yes. But once you get a letter from a lawyer you should at least have a lawyer look it over and possibly draft a response.

It can sometimes hard to tell frivolous vs. serious letters, and ignoring a serious one is not a good idea. Given any sort of emotional attachment to your business, and lack of legal experience, you might not be the best person to judge the situation.

What? Failure to heed a legal threat can result in a lawsuit. Failure to appear can result in a default judgement against you. Appearing in court without adequate representation isn't much safer. Appearing with adequate representation is probably out of OP's budget.

Ignoring the posturing of lawyers on the other hand can be plenty expensive.

That part yes, but what do you do once you get served? What do you do when you need to respond in court?

The point is that aggressive litigation is a common tactic large companies use to bully smaller players, because they know that the smaller players don't have the resources for extended legal battles.

I already cancelled my subscription for the hacker plan on Replit, I not going to support a bully. Also, I expect people to upload mirrors of riju the same way they did with youtube-dl when Github decided to take it down.

Edit: nvm it's already happening: https://github.com/umesh-timalsina/riju

Love this comment and support it 100%. I think what the OP tried to express and not everyone might have picked up on: there's usually a step between where this case is at right now and a lawsuit being officially filed - that step would be a cease and desist letter. In it, the company (aka, their lawyer) would state the basis for their claims and would make a clear case for why they think they are entitled to those claims. At that point, you'd have a better idea if you're being bullied or if they have a case. IANAL so take this all with a grain of salt, but it would be unusual for a claimant to optimize for taking you to court over optimizing for actually resolving the case. The latter can be achieved at a fraction of the time and cost with a cease and desist letter, so that's where that step comes from. The downside is that the letter could be officially registered and could become a public record, which you would have to proactively disclose in your interactions with current and future investors.

It seemed obvious the OP had some loose threads or lack of confidence in his positioning. A hard "no" only applies if you know you're right. If, on the other hand, you're hearing confusing, well-articulated words, from important people, caution nearly always is rewarded. Let them play their cards (if they will) and then afterward fully informed with whatever advice you choose to seek, decide whether to resurrect the project.

The OP doesn't have an operating business, he can decide to put it on hiatus, as a resulting of bullying or for any other reason.

> Lawyers do not like to lose cases, so will not push a losing agenda

They will if they get paid.

Even if they get paid in advance, lawyers are acutely aware of the costs of litigation (even when you ultimately win) and that losing cases is one of the most common triggers for lawyers being sued, so, they really don't like losing cases even if they are getting paid. (There are caveats and exceptions, sure, but as a broad rule...)

Successful legal or medical malpractice suits are rare, and there's insurance for that. All law firms are a little profligate and will have their own internal calculus as to how much to push the client.

The problem is that it's impossible to know if the lawyer coming after you is one of the ethical ones or not.

Dropping a case or settling a case is not the same as losing a case. There is quite a lot of legal pressure and financial cost that can be applied that puts you at no risk of losing a case.

I agree. One of the things the judge is going to ask both parties is if there were any attempts to resolve this issue in good faith outside of court. If you show up penniless with no lawyer, and they show up with a high end legal team to show off punitive damages and the only dealbreaker is that the little guy won't sit down and die quietly; you're in pretty good shape.

The judge will tell you all to go away and try to find an agreement. This agreement will either be Replit leaving you alone or Replit buying you out.

IANAL, but I was in a similar situation and I cannot see any circumstance where you get raked over the coals.

> if your own lawyer believes they have a case

By this point, you have already lost (hundreds or thousands of dollars of lawyer fees and possibly countless sleepless nights).

"Stop letting people be bullies" is unfortunately hard unless you are sure that you can afford the cost.

Not quite - if your lawyer believes they have a case, especially a strong case, there is quite likely a good opportunity to settle out of court and the other side's lawyers (acting in their own client's best interest) will go out of their way to try and encourage them to accept a reasonable settlement.

You're only boned if it actually goes to court - and even in that case you're still free to settle until the judge announces a verdict.

The second "your lawyer" exists, you have hired and paid a lawyer.

Any settlement that doesn't consist of "the company withdraws their claims *and covers your lawyer costs" means you lost.

Not saying you're going to go bankrupt, just that you lost (financially) compared to just giving up a toy project and letting the bully win.

> It only becomes meaningful if and when ... your own lawyer believes they have a case

That is true, but most people don't have their "own lawyer" to ask.

Is not too difficult to find a decent employment or IP lawyer to spend an hour with you for a few hundred dollars to go over a document and advise you on how to respond.

A few hundred dollars? For a new grad that is a ton of money!

And that's sorta the rub - these costs are all really reasonable to anyone who's been working a white collar job for a few years, but it can be hard to afford for new employees and people in poverty.

Thankfully there are organizations that will take up your legal fight for free in the US.

No doubt. My point was to provide an approximate bounds based on my experience in doing this for one-off legal matters.

> Lawyers do not like to lose cases, so will not push a losing agenda.

Most lawyers don't care since they are getting paid anyway. And something like a website that could be easily transferred into another jurisdiction or throw-away company? Good luck. This is not real estate where you are a sitting duck.

For all readers... this is a US-centric attitude and you must not seek legal advice on HN.

Many attorneys offer free consultations, so OP (or anyone in a similar situation) should've contacted an attorney and asked them what to do. The attorney would know very well if he was in actual danger or the CEO was just bluffing.

I would expect the free consultation to be "Hmm, that depends. Can you give me a copy of any contracts you signed with them? Oh and $$$. Send me $$$ too."

Have you tried? I've got good 30min conversations with lawyers on the phone for 0$, and them telling me I didn't need their services after all, but to call them if X happens. Same with many other professionals, FWIW.

Yep that's been my experience too (UK lawyers). A few emails, a quick look at my contract (client was in breach by terminating without notice). The lawyers explained exactly what the legal situation was and told me that I would probably win an amount slightly less than their fee and they recommended I didn't bother - totally free advice.

(Annoyingly the reason I wouldn't have won that much in damages was that I had mitigated my damages by finding another contract within days)

My concern is that determining whether or not they are needed could be a lengthy task. I'm not saying that most of them would lie and say it would take longer than that.

Most professionals are pretty reasonable if you don't actually need their services. From handymen to lawyers, I've had people tell me I don't actually need them.

I mean I've also suggested at no cost that a site could be built on Squarespace instead of hiring a software engineer too...

I briefly used a lawyer in the states and the cost was extremely reasonable - in Canada I've used one much more and the cost continues to be quite reasonable.

I think this impression is just a result of how lawyers are portrayed in the media, most folks are quite happy to sit down with someone and talk something through - moreso if it can be done entirely over email or the phone.

How can the attorney know for sure without going to the details? The guy worked for the company and created a very similar project.

"If I were in the same situation as OP, I'd state that my intent was positive,"

My attorney: Never respond ever.

> do not be afraid of lawyers

Well, the US News coverage and TV made being really afraid of lawyers the norm. Especially when you are poor. In the countries in the EU where I lived, I do not even have to open the threat email, but if I lived in the US, I would be very afraid. No idea if that is true or not but the system seems geared for bullying the little guy over there.

No, you absolutely should be afraid of lawyers. They can waste boundless amounts of time and money over bullshit nobody else cares about. In many cases lawsuits are nothing but state-sanctioned bullying and extortion. Nobody sane actually wants to waste their time and money going to court over any minor thing, only corporations can afford to do this because they have more than enough money to burn. Suing competitors into oblivion is a viable tactic even if you lose in court because it delays their profits and burns their cash reserves. Sony vs. Connectix is an example of this.

Obviously the right thing to do is to stand up to this bullshit. I have massive respect for anyone with the balls to do that. Everyone else is better off doing things as anonymously as possible. Can't sue you if nobody knows who you are.

In terms of legal liability, it would be a lot harder for Amjad Masad to prove damages from this post versus the webapp. Especially since Masad's emails are there in plain site. It's sad riju is offline, but at least there's a record that it happened. Putting ethics aside, I think this move reduces financial risk at least.

But this situation is terrible. I've seen multiple YC CEOs bring out the fancy lawyers that they got connected to through the incubator. In some cases, these were multi-million dollar arguments that really arose because the YC CEO screwed up (in very very basic ways!) and then the they got butthurt when things didn't go their way. And YC is connected with they very kinds of lawyers who are happy to make money off of bullying their way through "deals."

Why does YC keep funding CEOs who get their egos bruised so easily? If you're a CEO and you're using your legal leverage irresponsibly, just imagine what the company books must look like.

Unless you're wealthy, really wealthy, please DO BE afraid of lawyers.

Specially in the US, where justice is mostly a rich man's game.

> Specially in the US, where justice is mostly a rich man's game

Same in Pakistan.

I have received a few 'love letters' from lawyers and a few company CEOs. It is scary but first few times but don't forget it will cost them money to take you to court. So ask yourself: Will it cost them more money to sue you than they will save? In this case will it would cost them stupid amount of money to swat down every person like you.

P.S. I looked at using them but 'loved' totally transparent demo.

Lawyers can do immense damage to your life even if you've done absolutely nothing wrong. Go ask DevinCow on Twitter.

In this case I believe OP was trying to salvage their relationship. I would also like to note that OP does not seem to be operating on fear, hence the public disclosure.

> If I were in the same situation as OP

Sure you would.

A fancy funded company like Replit getting scared by an intern's weekend project is entertaining. If your moat is so low it can be replicated in a few days, I think this open source project is the least of their worries.

They offered to hire him before insinuating he was a bad/demanding intern, as well. This is standard manipulative behavior and has little benefit to anyone besides attempting to make the intern feel bad. This isn't the first time I've seen a founder resort to this exact type of behavior before threatening legal action.

Reading this part really made my head shake. Attacking a former intern like that, why would anyone want to intern there after this?

That's why I'm glad the OP spoke up. Abusive behavior like this shouldn't be tolerated in the industry and is sadly common. Now I know to avoid this company and individual.

Who would want to use replit after reading that? They might have just killed their company. All it would really take is for this guy to put his site back up and add shared links.

The other day, someone mentioned avoiding Chinese products and I argued it is not an easy thing to do. But sites like these? Easy decision. After this circus/drama, this site goes into my don't even visit the URL list. What a shitty behavior.

You should check out Replit's Glassdoor reviews - avoid!

I would play devil's advocate here and say that the situation is probably muddier than it is presented in the blog. Also there appers to be a level of trust here (at least the Replit CEO trusted that OP will not make this go viral on HN and spiral into a PR nightmare I suppose, which though is the most entertaining path it can take)

Not sure how talented OP is. This can as well be a case study of who not to hire.

> a level of trust here

Trust is destroyed as soon as your first reaction to something is to summon lawyers.

I actually somewhat agreed until I read "I will be engaging our lawyers on Monday if it is still up by then."

Nothing worse than petty threats in corporate speak. He must be serious since he was planning to engage with his lawyers rather than just circle back with them.

> Also there appers to be a level of trust here (at least the Replit CEO trusted that OP will not make this go viral on HN and spiral into a PR nightmare I suppose, which though is the most entertaining path it can take)

I don’t get what you’re saying here. It’s not a breach of trust to speak publicly about someone threatening legal action against you.

If fact, most people would probably consider threatening legal action to be forfeiting any trust the two might previously have had.

Agreed. Also denying the request for a courtesy call after the takedown was a bit insulting considering the work was trashed without a fight.

In regards to your comment about the situation being a bit muddier than presented: I would suggest that you take a look through the unabridged version as linked in the post ( https://web.archive.org/web/20210530184721/https://imgur.com... )

Rather than downvoting your comment I opted to reply to it since it may provide a bit more information for you to base your judgement on about "things being muddier".

As for your last comment about their abilities - forgive me but that sounds incredibly unfair and unwarranted and verges on being a personal attack.

Interesting. Now I think it really might be a (accidental) white box clone. A lot of stuff looks obvious in hindsight, especially if it is the best solution to the problem.

But then I believe this is legal (depending on your jurisdiction).

> Also there appers to be a level of trust here.

Amjad, replit's CEO, offered to hire OP, later accused them of copying their "internal designs", then threatened them with lawyers replit's millions can buy, eventually to stonewall and stop replying to their emails. What kind of trust is that?

> Not sure how talented OP is. This can as well be a case study of who not to hire.

That's a valid perspective, alright. One that's minority I sincerely hope.

I'd say he is pretty darn talented

I'm pretty skeptical. I think a rational actor wouldn't have made legal threats. Even if OP's project does somehow use some secret insight from replit, it's certainly not a threat to replit's business in any way. Legal action would be a waste of time, money, and PR.

Which means that the legal threats levelled against OP are presumably coming from a place of emotion and personal resentment, and I'm very much not prepared to extend the benefit of the doubt to replit under those circumstances.

CEOs get very invested in their projects. It's pretty much expected. It's their entire life. Many of them have invested everything into their companies, and are terrified of failures (there's an awful lot of FAIL out there).

Different Principals have different ways of evaluating threats, and reacting to them. At first glance, this seems like an awful mistake, on the part of the Replit people (Can you say "own goal"? I knew you could!).

Maybe there's more to the tale than appears here, but it does seem fairly straightforward; assuming that the emails shared tell the whole story.

I hope that everyone finds a way past this, and comes out OK.

One thing that I will say, is that the OP seems to be pretty sharp. He's young, and maybe he reacted more quickly and naively than a cynical old bastard like Yours Truly would, but he has done a pretty cool job on his project. It might not be "ship-ready," but it sounds like a great demonstration of his capabilities.

Also, as Elon Musk shows, CEOs can cause tremendous damage, if they go off-script. Being a CEO of a public/funded company is a fairly awesome Responsibility. It needs to be taken seriously.

I'd say that this very thread shows the damage that can be done to the company. Having this pinned at #1 on HN for all this time is devastating. It's actually kind of horrifying. Like watching a slow-motion train wreck. A lot of Replit employees and VCs are going to take it in the shorts from this. He's probably got some 'splainin' to do...

I can't remember the company, but there's a famous object lesson of a UK CEO that destroyed his life's work and corporation, by mentioning an upcoming product too early in a BBC interview.

I've encountered the irrational over invested founders first hand at a previous company. I worked there for about 6 months but it didn't really suit me so I moved on.

The founders seemed to get upset, I still don't really know why, presumably because of the short tenure. They then proceeded to not pay me my last month's wages while attempting to feed me various excuses or just failing to reply to messages.

I eventually got the case in front of a judge (self represented) and discovered that despite them telling me about their lawyers they were also representing the case themselves without any idea about the legal situation. The judge basically laughed them out of court, starting off by pointing out that even if all of their statements were correct they still had no legal basis for not paying the wages. The judge then checked their accusations (that I had lied to them during the hiring process) and found they were not correct.

Despite them having no legal basis the whole process was pretty stressful since until the court case I had been assuming they had some reason to not just settle. (I was mostly worried the recruiter had done something genuinely dodgy during the hiring process.)

I'm still surprised that those people can run a company for more than 5 years.

The company was the Osborne Computer Corporation and announcing a product successor too early is called the Osborne Effect

Now I remember.

We actually had one of those things, at the company I worked for. It was a monster, and had this tiny little screen, and a couple of 8" drives.

> I think a rational actor wouldn't have made legal threats.

The problem with applying the "rational actor" test here, or anywhere really, is that to a first approximation people are not rational actors.

Yeah, people aren't rational. But when people start behaving dangerously (making legal threats, etc), I think they ought to be acting rationally — especially if they're in a position of power.

So when a CEO makes legal threats against some random dev's side project, seemingly out of a sense of entitlement to the very idea of a polyglot code sandbox, I'm going to be pretty harsh.

> I'm going to be pretty harsh.

What exactly are you skeptical about? It's read to me like you were disbelieving the story because you didn't believe the CEO would act that way. To the contrary, it's entirely plausible (regardless of truth).

We can completely agree that people ought to be behaving more rationally, but empirically in enough cases, they don't.

I'm skeptical that "the situation is muddier than it appears in the blog post." It seems clear to me that the CEO is acting irrationally, and given that, nothing about the story seems out-of-place. So I'm going to be pretty harsh towards the CEO in not extending them the benefit of the doubt, because I don't see any perspective where they're behaving appropriately.


Welp, I think you posted 4+ more times than intended while HN was having server issues. Maybe dang can fix it or you can delete them, lol.

Besides that, 100% agree on the personal investment/grandeur trap for founders.

Yes, it was our fault (specifically mine), not ChrisMarshallNY's. I've marked the previous comments dupes and left the latest one.

I deleted a couple of them. Thanks!

Kudos on fixing what was probably a fairly terrifying problem.

Terrifying enough that I missed the brain-dead, obvious solution for 2 hours. Twas ever thus!

Computers are the worst solution to any problem except all the others that have been tried before.

- Churchill (probably)

I don't think anyone who doesn't work for you has any obligation whatsoever to consider your image. As a CEO and public face of a company you should go ahead and assume that anyone you threaten or badmouth will go ahead and talk about it online, on the news, or with a bullhorn at the local mall.

He willingly traded some percentage chance at a competitor using an open source project to steal some percentage of his business for this PR nightmare. Personally I think this effort shows the bar for such a project is pretty low so I don't think shutting it down was a good trade off. I think it shows immaturity, bad will, bad faith and honestly its more of a case study in whom not to work for. Most people they would want to hire are liable to have multiple options. They can ill afford to be an undesirable choice.

> Not sure how talented OP is.

Based on the commit log in the article, he added support for running code in 79 programming languages in 4 days. I'd say he's probably pretty talented.

It's not the whole picture, but the article links to the full email exchange. It's difficult for me to imagine what missing information would lead to the CEO's messages being appropriate.

OP did take the project offline - which shows there is at least some doubt in his own mind.

My understanding based on the blog post was that it was cautionary due to the threat of legal action. It seems clear that there isn't any doubt - it's caution due to the stakes.

When faced with an irrational actor making legal threats the rational choice might well be to back down even if you're 100% in the right but your loss from backing down is minor, so it tells us nothing.

> at least the Replit CEO trusted that OP will not make this go viral on HN and spiral into a PR nightmare I suppose,

From reading the emails, it looks like the Replit CEO "trusted" that the OP was cowed into submission.

Talent or not, having the passion to put together a crazy project like this that has no real practical use but is very interesting - I would want to hire that person over someone with a bit more skill.

> that has no real practical use

Well this can be developed into a great replit competitor

I don't think this is true. As the author notes, he doesn't have any ability to scale due to simplistic design decisions he made. As the author notes, the hard part of this business is not "write a webserver that takes a program from a user and runs it"

Indeed, a great deal of current security work is on the problem of not running other people's code.

Yeah, the entire premise of this kind of company is asking strangers to give you arbitrary code and then running it. I imagine there ares some important design decisions there that are not trivial to replicate. At it seems the author made _no_ attempt to replicate them, as he said anyone could knock his server over easily w/ a fork bomb.

I thought these type of interpreters ran in the user's browser. Cross-compile the interpreter to JS or webasm, stream it to the user after they click on which language to use. Built-in libraries could be streamed on-demand the same way or they can be bundled with the interpreter. It would solve the scalability and security problem.

Even so, the fact that Repl.it felt so threatened by it as to threaten legal action and bully someone into taking it down speaks volumes to its viability as a competitor. The inability to scale can be fixed - probably not trivially, obviously, but it's very much a possibility.

Or it speaks to Repl.it's CEO's lack of understanding of the technical differences. I wouldn't assume anything about the viability based on this reaction.

They should feel threatened. There's nothing particularly special or novel about what Repl.it is doing, also very little in the way of specialised knowledge required to build a competitor (note that I'm not trying to belittle the individual involved here). That they got $20 million to pursue this product in some ways surprises me given the relatively low barrier to entry.

If the code is well-documented and everything is nicely set up, you just need the right person who has access to VC and an untapped market (e.g. China) to pick it up and spin off from there

Or at least it would save up a lot of boostrapping cost. Otherwise this whole thing indeed makes no sense.

> If the code is well-documented and everything is nicely set up, you just need the right person who has access to VC and an untapped market (e.g. China) to pick it up and spin off from there

I think the idea is that it's trivial to take what you've described and add "a small amount of work that an early-career engineer (even if talented) describes as easy".

Or self-hosted, on your own workstation or private server. It has great practical use despite not yielding corporate or investment profits.

Well, the author did post the entire email thread (redacting information that may be proprietary) on Imgur.

Personally, I think the Replit CEO could have explained what the specific issues were before threatening to sue. Since there was no explanation on the CEO's part, I think it's perfectly warranted for the author to make this public.

Interesting to see my post fluctuating between -4~4 points in the first few hours before settling down with the downvotes :)

Thanks guys for the comments. Definitely helps to view this matter from more angles, and it's clearer now. This is certainly a case study of who not to work for. (I didn't know so much about Replit and its CEO prior and totally missed the totalitarian vibe he is giving)

Curious to see how much the Replit community & ecosystem would be affected this event.

This is now on the first page of HN Search https://hn.algolia.com/

Yeah, we are just getting one side.

That said, all the possible IP in something like this is in security, reliability, scalability and good UX.

Severely doubt the OP spent much time on that.

The CEO is probably just having trouble dealing with stress and is acting out. It happens.

>The CEO is probably just having trouble dealing with stress and is acting out. It happens.

I agree it's not uncommon for first-time founders/CEOs to see phantom ghosts and lash out; however, we should be careful to not normalize that kind of behavior. Founders often hold mentorship or supervisory positions over their current and ex-employees, so it's harmful when they react with aggression and manipulation.

At small companies, that betrayal of trust cuts deeper than it does in more common manager-employee relationships, IMO.

> The CEO is probably just having trouble dealing with stress and is acting out. It happens.

That doesn't give them a free pass to lash out at people.

Why are we making excuses for highly paid professionals behavior in the public performance of their job.

It was a private conversation that was made public.

It was a private conversation which Amjad himself stated he intended to turn into a public lawsuit. There should be no expectation of privacy here.

OP apologized and took down the code - which was satisfactory to the Amjad. AFAIK, no lawsuit has been filed.

Now, the only reason to make the conversation public is to apply public pressure to make something happen.

OP apologized and took down the code so he wouldn't be served with a lawsuit, not because he thought it was fair.

I disagree, I don't see it that way. The very first email says "Don't worry, I have no intention [..]". That to me, indicates OP was aware they were in a grey area.

The CEO Amjad Masad has been doubling down on his story both here on HN and on Twitter. Also, this is a story told with receipts, and receipts carry a weight of their own. Namely, private emails made public. You can see for yourself whether you'll ever see the other side speak through the language of receipts.

It's also notable that Amjad used to work at CodeAcademy on up-and-going interactive coding experiences. Now he has his own company building up-and-going interactive coding experiences. What did Amjad learn while he was at CodeAcademy, being privy to internal business operations?

It's their job to _not_ act out.

Unless there was an NDA or some such (and since this isn't mentioned anywhere in the emails or post, I assume there's not) you can hardly sue someone for re-using knowledge they acquired during their job. How are you even supposed to know what the supposed super-magic super-secret sauce is if you never agreed to an NDA?

If that was the case almost everyone with a GitHub project could be sued to infinity, because almost everyone learns tons of things every day while working.

It is extremely unlikely that there was no NDA. I've literally only ever had one job that didn't make me sign an NDA, and the company had a whopping <10 employees.

That part kind of surprised me: I figured pretty much every job (even internships) makes you sign some sort of noncompete agreement these days.

Repl.it is based in California where noncompetes are especially difficult to enforce.


Specifically California Business and Professions Code Section 16600,

“every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”

In addition such issues must by law be decided in California courts and if they forced the issue into court and lost they would be liable for the cost of his defense.

Even outside of California there are limits to what you can enforce. Judges aren't liable to find that an infinite duration noncompete reasonable.

Another example in Washington State its now impossible to obtain noncompetes for anyone paid less than a rate of 100k per annum as an employee or 250k per annum as a contractor and they are limited to 18 months duration.

If you improperly assert a noncompete you are liable for 5000 or actual damages whichever is greater.

They are probably not asserting a noncompete because it is functionally impossible for them to do so. They would have to assert that he was making use of trade secrets or that in some nebulous way his design belonged to them. eg trade dress


The answer is you need a lawsuit to decide but probably not.

I don't live anywhere near California (Québec), but it's kinda the same idea here (from what I've heard). Basically employees have the right to make a living and the onus is on the employer to prove an injury occured directly due to an (ex)employee's actions.

Still didn't stop everyone I've ever worked for from making me sign them, enforceable or not. I guess it's different elsewhere.

He might have signed one but it would be legally invalid and if pressed in court it would cease to exist in 0.5 seconds it wouldn't be worth the time to present.

I fail to see how "you can't copy our product" is the same as "restrain[ing] from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind".

(That also says nothing about whether such a contract has or has not been signed by the relevant parties.)

As always seem to need a lawyer to be absolutely sure about any complex matter of law but it looks to me like creating even an identical product which this is not would fall within the scope of "any lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind" for clarity I read that as you can't stop a person from doing any of the above from a b and c rather than you can't stop someone from doing all of a b c.

I don't think Repl.it has a leg to stand on they just have a pile of money and the presumption of being willing and able to hire a shark in a suit to ruin someone's life with a baseless suit filed for the sake of harassment.

Copyright infringement is not a lawful profession, trade, or business.

It's not clear to me that implementing the same concept after having seen and written some of their code constitutes copyright infringement.

If you hire an intern to work on your code base you own merely own the work that person creates for the duration of their internship. Your piddling money doesn't buy you the general knowledge of how such a solution works any more than an auto shop acquires by dint of buying a few hours of labor owns the mechanics understanding of how a transmission works.

Have you ever reimplemented something from scratch, perhaps in a different language, and ended up doing something in the same way as the original code? ... I sure have.

I would think that a few chunks of very similar code, and a well-paid expert testifying, plus the fact that he had knowledge of Replit's code from his employment, would go a long way towards a tough time in court for both parties. (Or, at the very least, that they both need to talk to lawyers before/when they start throwing around legal threats...)

They are probably making hand wavey threats because in actuality they have nothing.

There are usually trade secret clauses with lots of potential for abuse.

It's kinda funny how their CEO writes on Twitter all the time that they are the best company in the world, with the best product, do most innovations in tech etc and 10 minutes later he is threatened by a small open-source project that wasn't even created to compete.

He blocked me on Twitter for pointing out something (technical) he said was wrong, and then he deleted his tweet. Told me everything I need to know about that guy.

Mentioned in my other comment, but just all the more evidence of a megalomaniac, insecure CEO trying to build a company out of shallow moats and little value creation

He's deleting a lot of tweets as we speak.. I think he got famous

Link to your tweet, please?

What were you responding to?

I don't really remember the context. This was 2+ years ago. He was trying to compare some search results on twitter vs google, when using exact match with one query but not the other.

Yeah - I don't really like piling on, but Replit and Roam both give off massive alarms for me regarding the founders.

Both seem to think they're Xerox PARC - or the most ambitious software companies on earth, both products seem pretty underwhelming.

Just seems wildly disproportionate to what they're doing. At least Steve Jobs was actually building stuff that was revolutionary. Elon Musk is building reusable rockets and pulling EVs from the future to modern day. Roam is making another centralized document editor?

In terms of software ambition neither of them come close to Urbit in what they're trying to accomplish, and Galen is not an ass about it.

Right? REPL.it is - unironically - a weekend project, that the founder loves to pretend is a marvel of engineering

I don't know if I'd go that far - I think dev environment set up is a massive pain, especially for newbies and it scares a lot of people away from development because of constant issues.

Solving this would be helpful for teaching and I think it's not trivial to do well. I think there's an argument that being good at troubleshooting and debugging is 90% of programming so the shitty dev environment setup currently is a bit of a filter, but I generally think that's a bad status quo rationalization.

All this is to say - I think there's a market and the product is likely valuable, but I also don't think it's reusable rockets or rebuilding the internet or the 'most ambitious software company in history'. This kind of framing turns me off and when paired with stuff like this post leads me to avoid the company entirely.

Recently repl.it announced they will integrate nix pkgs into their environment. They are simply building a better ux on top of existing open source technology.

> "For a Linux user, you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem. From Windows or Mac, this FTP account could be accessed through built-in software."


Building a better UX isn't done 'simply' - and the result is often worth billions.

If u are looking at this from a profitable angle then getting ux right is about gaining more users and making them pay. Technical innovation is about creating something which wasn't possible before and not making a start-up wrapper over existing stuff. In today's misaligned businesss models of marketing and advertising, there is less core technical research and more fluff

That depends on where you draw the line of "innovation". Is it an innovation when it's created, or when it changes the status quo?

I would consider an approachable wrapper over a difficult tool to be innovative. Programming languages are essentially just UX wrappers over assembly. Is garbage collection an innovation, or a UX improvement? What about type systems? None of them make things possible that weren't possible before, they just make it easier.

Information for the sake of information is interesting, but where is it's value if it can't be applied to anything?

Right, I get the same impression from Replit. I don't know why I got subscribed to some weird accelerator newsletter they started and the wording is akin to the nigerian prince scam (and as a side note a REPL website creating an accelerator for sure gives me some dotcom bubble vibes).

I'm sure there are a lot of incredibly clever startup founders out there but I get the impression that more than not you attract founders that are more interested in the status rather than the innovation aspect. I said status not money as a lot of the time these folks don't really care about money as long as they can add a "Founder of X, an YC funded company" on their profile and share their next viral tweet, with lots of adjectives, lots of buzzwords and no depth. Startup funding became a game of convincing others that you as a person deserve the funding, not the company itself.

Well, these are things that most tech people know, we just don't discuss them because we're polite.


Given that his name isn't even Conan, everyone should probably treat this as the baseless hearsay that it seems to be.

I don't know the truth around that either way, but I think Roam is based in Utah at some ranch (even if they're funded by a16z). I wouldn't generalize his behavior to the rest of silicon valley culture.

I think his brother was also the QAnon shaman horn guy (at least he said as much on Twitter - maybe it was a joke?).

I don't think this was his brother - I think it was a joke (imo bad taste at the time). I did some research around it and it seemed that his brother does look alike but that other person had a different legal name.

> I wouldn't generalize his behavior to the rest of silicon valley culture.

I get what you're saying here, but they made an entire TV series lampooning silicon valley culture.

Yeah and I liked it - good tongue-in-cheek satire that exaggerated a lot of things that have some basis in truth. It was ultimately a fictional show though and life in silicon valley is a lot more boring than that the vast majority of the time.

Even in that show nobody was on meth iirc.

They did an amphetamine dependency and an opium dependency.

Isn't equating "victim of drug addiction" and "harms women" out of line? One is something that isn't really his fault and isn't because of his moral failings, and the other is dehumanizing nearly half of the population.

I unfollowed him after he tweeted that Repl.it is the most innovative company in the world.

Yeah, not SpaceX or Neuralink or Pfizer. A company that runs docker images is the most innovative company.

We had a startup called Runnable in 2013 that did a similar thing as repl.it. Coding sandboxes in many languages by spinning up docker containers on the backend [1]. We solved a lot of scaling problems, but I honestly thought the innovation was mostly handled by docker. And that was by 2013.

[1] http://web.archive.org/web/20140702013410/http://runnable.co...

Pfizer doesn't really belong in that list. They applied money to an already made invention and scaled up an existing manufacturing process along with a dozen other companies. Pfizer is not even the only manufacturer of the BioNTech vaccine, nor is it the first manufacturer to express interest, nor did it take any risk.

I'd say the most innovative company in the world is probably Alphabet or Samsung.

I can totally understand why Alphabet is on the list, but what is your reason for regarding Samsung as the most innovative company? Nowadays I've found them struggling to compete with their Chinese and Taiwanese opponents.

Purely in the phone division, they are not that innovative. But they have their fingers in a lot of pies, and are still #2 in semiconductors, they innovate a lot in display technology, they have their own processors, Samsung Pay was pretty huge and still has a serious impact, they are one of the big lithium ion battery companies, the S-Pen also was really huge for mobile devices in general, their foldable screens have a lot of potential.

Another really big thing is that Samsung funds a lot of basic research also at the university level, which AFAIK none of the big tech companies do.

Are you referring to Pfizer because of the mRNA-vaccine? That has actually been invented by the German biotech startup BioNTech ;-)

The manufactoring at Pfizer is pretty impressive.

It is impressive, but it comes from capital and not innovation. Pfizer is not the only manufacturer of the BioNTech vaccine.

I feel great that others see how ridiculous Amjad is… Replit is cool but has a serious attitude.

Well the product is obvious and easy to replicate without specialised knowledge. CEO likely realises this as much as everyone else so feels the need to overcompensate with personal marketing (and apparently now lawyers).

It's crazy how a little bit of money can turn people into jerks.

Gosh, I wish I received 20 million in funding for that idea that needed three days to be technically replicated by an intern.

My wish: Replit should sue intern, intern should get free attorney from EFF, case should be dismissed as "WTF" in court. Future CEOs will know that "an intern would need three days to technically replicate" is not a differentiator. Also, hope is not a strategy. VCs would learn that hearing BS from CEO is not "due diligence".

Intern would eventually be showered in money for speaking to further CEOs about that one mistake they should never do.

The world would move on and be a better place for everyone, except unprepared CEOs.

How long would it take an intern to replicate Twitter? Is Twitter worth millions? I think so.

I think it's really easy for tech teams to do things in a sub-optimal way and then get all caught up in fixing problems of their own making and start to think they're doing really great technical work and that it is a competitive advantage for the company. More companies need to face the fact that their software can be easily replicated and that the value lies elsewhere, such as brand, reputation, reliability, good customer service, etc -- other things that an intern can't replicate in a weekend.

Creating a facebook clone has been done by many and some like vk have achieved regional success but they are in that unique position because of brand. Facebook started to be used as a word I'll facebook you meant I will write you. That is similiar to I'll google that means to search for something.

Facebook playbook for market rise is legendary. The limited rollout, the college based communities based on your edu email created this campus privacy and campus group. Starting off with the ivy league schools and slowly working into other schools created this demand as people talked. By the time facebook opened to the general public they had such a buzz. When they rolled out to this group they included one killer feature.. they allowed you to give your hotmail email/password and they would get a list of your contacts from your email and invite them to facebook. That brought in your aunt, brother, old friends to facebook. That created a network effect. Throw in the whatapps story and instagram story and an election/congressional hearings and you have facebook today.

The code part seems so minor. Retracing their steps is impossible. The path to facebook killer is a huge challenge to think that could only be done in a weekend is crazy.

Facebook is such a shitshow these days, I'm starting to wonder if the door is open for a straight competitor that is simply less aggrrssive on the advertising.

Replit is crushing it on reputation at the moment.

The CEO is actually worried that this weekend project will make it hard for replit to raise fundings from investors because it makes it look like there is no moat to hosting hundreds of programming languages. The investors don't know that the code here doesn't scale.

Also, there is no moat. As far as I know, there are no major protected intellectual properties, technical or business learning curves, regulatory hurdles, intensive capitalization requirements, economies of scale... I suppose there may be some amount of network effect, but not so much that it's hard to imagine a competitor struggling to overcome it.

You are right. Other than the brand name recognition and the existing business relationships, I can't think of anything that would be tough for a funded competitor to replicate.

Doesn't seem to stop a lot of products when they target B2B or enterprise for whom the value proposition is actually the marketing, support, layers of regulatory compliance etc that they add. LastPass is an example. Whether Replit is doing that I don't know, but its a real model. Not, however one that is vulnerable to weekend projects.

Agreed... but the intern is obviously incredibly naive in thinking that repl.it would be happy to see one of their ex-interns working on a project that does pretty much the same kind of thing they're doing... whether or not this is a threat to them right now. There's a tiny, but non-zero chance, that this project could become successful and who knows, take marketshare from repl.it... and while everyone is pretending they would never be afraid of an intern stealing their business, I doubt many of them saying that have been through this experience and know how it feels like running a business and trying to stay on top of all the scams and bullshit that will get in your way, including from previous "allies" like ex-employees who think can do better.

Just look at this from the other side: you employ lots of people to work on some product, you teach them "secrets of the trade", send them to conferences, let them participate in making decisions, giving them extraordinary insight in the area of work you are active on... and as soon as they leave your company, they use all that knowledge to try to create something with that on their own (I can understand it, once you konw stuff and enjoy it, you want to keep working on it even in your own time), just for fun... basically spreading some of that knowledge you gave them and making it packaged and accessible not only to future contributors of their project, but to all competitors and genuine copycats out there.

This is incredibly unprofessional. If he had at least come up with something original based on that knowledge , I would be totally on his side, but his stuff, while it may not be an exact copy of repl.it, is clearly doing the exact same thing... how is that not at least "stealing the idea"?? Just don't do that.

Show some respect to your ex-boss and collegues who are working hard for several years to get an idea out to the world and make it work for others as good as they can... if you want to use your knowledge, just contribute back to the project if it's open-source (your contribution will be a lot more useful, very likely, to other people than your poor, basic little project)! If you actually want to compete, which the author claims was not at all his goal (yeah, right, until someone shows even a trace of interest in paying something for it), then by all means go ahead and act reckless, but you'll need to come up with some pretty major advantage to have any chance, and will be taking pretty huge risks with lawsuits, but that's business as usual in the corporate world.

> Agreed... but the intern is obviously incredibly naive in thinking that repl.it would be happy to see one of their ex-interns working on a project that does pretty much the same kind of thing they're doing.. whether or not this is a threat to them right now. There's a tiny, but non-zero chance, that this project could become successful and who knows, take marketshare from repl.it...

Too bad, that's business and how a functioning free market works. If it's that important to Replit, then they should patent it. If they can't get a patent then, again, too bad.

There are other legitimate ways of protecting trade secrets, such as requiring people to sign an NDA and/or non-compete before they see your secret sauce.

I'm not defending how the CEO behaved here - it looks very unprofessional at best - but the patent system is not the only or the best mechanism to enforce intellectual property rights.

I bring up patents because of the last line in the OP that insinuates that it wouldn't be out of character for Repl.it to react similarly to competing businesses:

> If someone with an actual commercial enterprise were to offend Replit, I shudder to think what treatment they might receive.

Patents would cover both the employee and outside competitor situations.

Can you elaborate? NDA is not legally enforceable here. What trade secret was stolen? what legal mechanism actually exists here?

NDAs are legally enforceable in all of the US. Non-competes are non-enforceable in California. NDAs however cannot be so generic that they act like NDAs and must be time limited and a few other caveats that aren't a big deal.

Non competes are unenforceable in California, and I'm unsure an NDA would apply very well. Not a lawyer though.

Why bother? Seems throwing their money around is functionality well enough.

Not sure what they'll do if another company decides to reinvent it.. but /shrug

(to be clear, not defending them at all)

>Just look at this from the other side: you employ lots of people to work on some product, you teach them "secrets of the trade", send them to conferences, let them participate in making decisions, giving them extraordinary insight in the area of work you are active on... and as soon as they leave your company, they use all that knowledge to try to create something with that on their own (I can understand it, once you konw stuff and enjoy it, you want to keep working on it even in your own time), just for fun... basically spreading some of that knowledge you gave them and making it packaged and accessible not only to future contributors of their project, but to all competitors and genuine copycats out there.

Two things, first: You write like the company did the teaching, sending to conferences, allowing to participate ... out of the goodness of their heart. Obviously they did this because they saw a value in this, in fact they even pay their employees money to do these things.

Moreover, what do you think happens when people leave companies, they never use the knowledge they acquired? Do the companies continue to own that knowledge? Moreover, it even happens all the time employee leave and even found direct competitors to their previous employees. Just look at the founding history of Intel for a famous example. Also by the same measures we could accuse the repl.it CEO of stealing ideas from codeacademy and facebook where he worked previously, I mean he build an interactive website.

Codecademy does let you run code in the browser, so they would actually have a case at least as strong as repl.it does against this intern.

Specifically, according to Codeacademy, he worked on the Codeacademy Labs product, which is similar to Repl.it.

I'm sorry but this is a lot of words to say "be subservient to your old boss". There's nothing wrong in what this dude did. He made an open source experiment and for that he was threatened practically at gun point. The contents of the emails he received are highly unprofessional and childishly antagonistic

It's pretty much understood that your institutional knowledge will go for a walk in this industry. Taking it personally is more unprofessional than what the intern did.

> it is clearly doing the exact same thing... how is that not at least "stealing the idea"?? Just don't do that.

Ideas aren't worth the paper they're written on, and a startup founder should know that better than anyone else. Hell, wasn't Fairchild "the same idea" as Shockley Semi?

I have a lot of respect for what repl.it is and their vision, and the intern did not come close to copying it. But I did lose a bit of respect for the current leadership if this is how they respond to toy reimplementations of certain features.

OP had anticipated your complaints in his post, and pre-replied to them. For example:

Replit makes a webapp you can use to run code online in different programming languages. This is nothing new (just Google “run python online” for proof), so Replit’s value proposition is extra features like sharing your work, installing third-party packages, and hosting webapps.


Now, none of the ideas I used in my open-source project were “internal design decisions”: they’ve all been published publicly on Replit’s blog (I knew this because I’d been asked to write some of those blog posts during my internship). And my project also wasn’t any more of a Replit clone than any of the other websites on the first few pages of Google results for “run python online”, most of which look exactly the same.

You may disagree with these claims, but the general / hypothetical stance of your post does not give me any reason to think OP is blowing smoke up our collective asses.

For that matter, the CEO of Replit could be more specific about what OP's 'crime' is, though I suspect the worst of it is that OP's actions revealed how threadbare the Emperor's clothes are.

What an odd take.

There was respect shown.

Replit is not that innovative or the pioneer of this idea - many have done this so many times before

Wit this silly logic, nobody can ever work for a compeitor.

Was Zoom's CEO unprofessional for starting Zoom after working so long in WebEx? How about Jet.com founder after working at Amazon?

Well, but most people are saying the company shouldn't be afraid of an intern... and you are rightly pointing out that ex-employees take what they've learned and start a competitor all the time, sometimes very successfully (I do think some of your examples are imoral if you ask me, but in business, I know that what's not illegal gets a pass however repugnant)... that's why so many companies have contracts that will forbid you from doing so (illegal in some jurisdictions, but I believe it's legal in most).

If all the person leaving is doing is creating the same thing, it's unlikely to be worthwhile. You'd be competing against an entrenched competitor with a customer base and brand recognition. What makes it worthwhile is if you want to do something different that they're unwilling to do.

For Zoom, that was to market the product to random people for free or close to free because the cost to provide it had fallen enough to make it worth while.. WebEx was unwilling or unable to do so. I'm sure it was suggested many times. Probably even by the soon to be CEO of Zoom before he left to do it himself.

Sometimes the original company is worried about cannibalizing their sales, or shifting focus from their current customers, or it's just plain a case of them moving far too slowly to take advantage of the market. These are all cases where someone leaving and starting a new company to serve this demand is a good thing for consumers, regardless of whether it's good for the original company. Companies that can't respond to market needs are inefficient, and in a well functioning market suffer for that.

In a poorly functioning market, such as one with overly onerous regulatory hurdles, or litigation preventing competition, or customer lock-in, customers are given fewer choices and competition is constrained. People taking their expertise and making new companies to serve different segments of that market is a feature, not a bug or problem. It's how the market works. If repl.it is worried about a hobby project that can't scale and doesn't seem to be attempting to compete in the market, how much value is it actually providing? Threatening litigation says a lot more about their product than the competitor, IMO, and what it says is not flattering.

> how is that not at least "stealing the idea"??

Because Replit didn't originate the idea of "web site you can execute code on". There's no idea to be stolen here, or if there was stealing, it's not from Replit.

> working on a project that does pretty much the same kind of thing they're doing

Radon outlined why this isn't true. [1]

> basically spreading some of that knowledge you gave them and making it packaged and accessible not only to future contributors of their project, but to all competitors and genuine copycats out there.

It appears as if you're advocating that Radon should've treated the open-source code as if it was closed? [1]

> This is incredibly unprofessional

In what world is it unprofessional to work on a personal side project that has ZERO commercial interests and is using 100% public open-source code? This is actually one of the most professional online disagreements I've ever seen..

> Show some respect to your ex-boss and collegues who are working hard for several years

hUHH ???

[1] https://intuitiveexplanations.com/tech/replit/evidence

> basically spreading some of that knowledge you gave them and making it packaged and accessible not only to future contributors of their project, but to all competitors and genuine copycats out there

With this reasoning anyone at Amazon cannot join another ecommerce, or anyone at Microsoft OS cannot join Apple, or anyone in iPhone team cannot join Android.

If you are worried that your product is at the mercy of people not talking about it, or experimenting with the knowledge in future, then thats the least of your worries. The product, the team and the company is in a deep mess.

> If he had at least come up with something original based on that knowledge

Repl.it itself is completely unoriginal... there's been websites doing this stuff for decades now. Of course, the CEO has to live in denial of this, and is easily threatened/offended when confronted by this reality.

> there's been websites doing this stuff for decades now.

Would this hold up in case of a lawsuit? I mean, can Replit's CEO accuse the guy of copying some of their work if there's evidence of prior art that predates both projects?

In theory no that's exactly the sort of thing you'd need to make it go away, the mechanism exactly depending on the case.

e.g. if they had a patent on something and were accusing infringement you'd countersue to say the patent's invalid (which I think in a nicely engineering appealing way is conceptually separate from the question of whether or not an awarded patent has been infringed upon).

Trademarks, being a de facto recognisably you mark, are not if they are in widespread use - which is why you get a lot of big guys suing tiny little guys and tabloids pick it up outraged they'd pick a fight so below their weight - but at some point enough little guys diluting your brand is going to mean it's no longer your brand, your trademark, and then it's too late to fight it.

(IANAL.) I assume this isn't about a non-compete clause otherwise he would've just said that instead of this vaguer message. (And it was two years ago OP worked there anyway.) So unless there's a patent supposedly infringed on, or closed source code copied out, I don't know what the complaint could even be in the first place? Just reads like an empty threat to me. That 'repl.it superiority' commit message is unfortunate though.

So once I've done one kind of work I shouldn't ever do that again for fear of offending my previous employer? Do you hear how ridiculous that sounds?

If what the ex-intern did can be summarized as slapping an eval() around a form submission and that would somehow threaten your business model then your product is intellectually void and garbage.

I mean, it's even in the name - REPL - it's been invented before.

", is clearly doing the exact same thing... how is that not at least "stealing the idea"??"

Vague general ideas like "a car" or "140 character limit" are not property, and so cannot be stolen.

Acting this way is superbly entitled.

I think this is a bad a take. How many different positive ways was there to approach this situation? The response from the CEO was incredibly unprofessional and seemed unnecessarily antagonistic to the point of provocation.

Of course he's naive. He's just out of college, would you have been more savvy at that age?

No. I didn't even say I was any less naive :D I am talking from experience, almost got into trouble because of similar behaviour, but after thinking hard about the situation, I decided that I was actually in the wrong for thinking I can just take what I learned and give it for free to the world and my old company's competitors to do as they wish. I can see how I, as the CEO, would've not thought nicely of such behaviour.

Who cares what ex-CEOs think of you? They are competing and trying to win and you are getting in their way.

If they were that valuable why would you ever let them leave?

You can't end the employment agreement and still expect others to act like they work for you. Every ex-employee is a business person on the same level as you. If they see an opportunity and beat you, you were a fool for letting them go.

A huge number of companies including YC companies are built by Ex Amazon and ex Google employees cloning corporate tech.

100% agree. If this threatened them, it means they are not doing well.

Or it may simply reflect the personal style and values of the CEO Amjad Masad notwithstanding their company position.

Or both.

Clearly their investors should have funded the intern!

That's part of why someone is a threat to your moat. You don't assume that a good rival effort will go unnoticed by investors and customers.

The whole startup space is disgusting. There are a bunch of lucky founders 'chosen ones' who get a ton of VC funding; as soon as they accept VC funding, users 'magically' start pouring in (cabal/manipulation?), which attracts more funding... Then some megacorp acquires the startup for millions of dollars. Easy peasy.

Then these lucky, spoiled-rotten assholes think they're entitled to sue anyone who tries to compete with them. Everyone knows this is not a free market. Just a bunch of artificially selected spoiled brats with rich daddies/friends enriching themselves by destroying society.

I think I am going to make Riju clone next weekend, got a name even: Disreplty.

I think we should flood the internet with replit clones :) How much money would they want to invest in lawyers?

Honestly there's no need? There's thousands anyway?

As OP says any value add is about accounts and sharing and whatever, the code-running in a browser functionality is two a penny.

replitsuperiority would be a good one too.

They were funded by YCombinator. Should we expect other YC companies to go after open source projects?

I would love to know how YC does their DD because it seems like it’s the most shallow and uninformed, meme-driven process.

It appears there's at least a little nepotism and/or incompetence at play, considering crap like Dreamworld got YC'd


Tbh, YC is not a public taxpayer-funded institution: they are free to fund whomever they like, be it nephews, spouses, or relatives.

Of course, but they're liable to damage their reputation as a VC firm if they continue funding garbage without vetting it at all, just cause someone's techbro buddy asked nicely for YC's backing.

And we're free to call it for what it is: nepotism

Yes but a lot of YC's value derives from their reputation which is given to them by people like us.

Why would funding by YC in any way suggest that a startup might not do that?

I wouldn't underestimate the potential of that project.

I know of other cases where well funded CEOs have tried bullying away someone who recently worked for them from starting a company in a related space. Glad that they weren't able to shut it down, and the new founder has raised a nice round. I'd love to see Radon succeed with his project.

IANAL but I don't think you can patent "path depencence". It is sunk cost

They cannot as it was already published (by... them)

If you can maybe they would have done it already. But they haven't so we can all use it.

Exactly my thoughts. CEO knows anyone could replicate the project.

I even go so far to say that the CEO doesn't want his secret to out that he is not that great programmer after all. He just took someone else's idea and build a company around it.

My reaction as well. I’ve used Replit lots. It’s great! No offence to Radon, but I would not consider his project a threat to Replit. The best case scenario is it’s a price-sensitive OSS alternative which would naturally have a much much smaller market. Interesting that the CEO was so threatened by this.

I didn’t read it as being scared — more like moral indignation that a member of the team left, then published a clone.

Just don’t do that, it’s in poor taste.

Sounds like the plot of the movie Antitrust.

Only if you equate sternly worded letters from the CEO with a visit from murderous thugs who steal your stuff.

I don't think threatening an extortionate lawsuit that's going to cost 100k$ is morally any better as stealing 100k$ worth of stuff and destroying it.

    "You don't need to remind you the essence of competition is
    always been quite simple, any kid working in a garage
    anywhere in the world with a good idea can put us out
    of business".
Harassing independent developers working is an important component of the Antitrust plot. And that's what the replit guy is doing.

    Milo: It would be open source, we offer it free to
    everybody, just charge for tech support.

    Gary: Wow, free.
    It's a cut-throat business we're in Milo.
    It's just a matter of time before someone borrows your
    technology, improves it and makes a billion dollars on it.
    What would you do with a billion dollars Milo?
    The question really is,
    How many of the people you share discoveries with
    will be altruistic? and how many will make fortunes
    of your generosity?
The movie shows the conflict between open source and proprietary software. Between altruism and financial opportunity.

VC funded companies aren't some tech billionaire funding a cool new project.

VC funded companies are investments that they want a return on. It shouldn't be surprising when people try very hard to protect that investment to help them get a better return.

> VC funded companies are investments that they want a return on. It shouldn't be surprising when people try very hard to protect that investment to help them get a better return.

Yeah, but if the investment is threatened by a weekend project built in a few days, it means that a serious competitor could destroy it in a couple weeks.

The thought that came to mind about this was a baker stepping on ants outside his store because nobody was coming into the store. If nobody wants to come into the store because of ants crawling in front, your store has larger issues.

"People try very hard to protect that investment and that's why gangsters tracked down where you live and broke your legs"

If someone is invested and stands to loose money, it does not gice them a free pass to act immorally.

It doesn't have to be surprising to be entertaining!

Out of curiosity, how hard is "very hard"?

It sits next to the midpoint between "hard" and "very, very hard"

It's a midpoint only on a logarithmic scale.

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