An Interview with Retweet.com about Ripping off Tweetmeme.com

I just liked this picture

I just liked this picture

I often wonder if first mover advantage really means much anymore. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. Of course neither was MySpace. The iPod was not the first MP3 player. HP isn’t even close to being the first PC maker. Microsoft did not invent word processing software. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb.

Big Web companies do this all the time. Do you remember PubSub? Most of you probably don’t. It was what Google Alerts was before Google Alerts existed. Not long after Google launched Alerts PubSub joined the dead pool. (PubSub keeps talking about re-launching but it hasn’t happened yet.) We’ve seen this happen with the multiple Facebook redesigns. They consistently stole features from FriendFeed, until they finally just did the right thing and stole acquired FriendFeed.

Now as sites start to hyper focus in smaller and smaller niches we see this happening at an increasing pace. Tweetmeme took the retweet, a huge traffic driver for sites, especially blogs and ripped off Digg. I mean look at the two sites, how much difference is there really? The categories are basically the same and the buttons look really, really close.

So is it any surprise that Tweetmeme itself gets ripped off? Not really. With success comes competition. Louis Gray has a post about the two companies and how closely Retweet has “borrowed” from Tweetmeme. My thought is how much variation of rip-off does your rip-off need to be?

It reminds me of the Beastie Boys line “Only 12 notes, well, a man can play.”  This was a reference to the common practice of sampling used in Rap music.

It turns out that I know the guys that started Retweet. Retweet was built by a Boise based company Mesiab Labs.

First off I’d like to say I like the guys at Mesiab Labs but I’ve never done business with them or used any of their products so I can’t speak to their business dealings. They have a whole suite of products all built off of Twitter, and the few that aren’t leverage Twitter heavily.

So I asked Kevin Mesiab (CEO) and Tyson Quick (COO) if they wanted to respond to the media out there. Here’s what I got back. I make no allegations to the accuracy of any statements or if what they’ve done is right or wrong, but I did want to get their side of the story out there.

Tac,
Thanks for contacting us. Here is some Q & A from another interview inquiry for retweet.com below. The flurry of negative press after launch was somewhat to be expected, to break down the recent negative press you must first understand that tweetmeme is currently Europe’s largest website ( in aspects of traffic ), and their most promising widely used web platform since IMDB ( aquired by Amazon ). With that in mind we have looked into the source of nearly every article and even some blog commenter’s and have discovered that 3/4 of the journalist are located in Europe. To clearly see a picture that paints the story, take a look at the launch day demographics:

Here some Q & A
1. What is the ReTweet.com service.
Retweet is the official place to find real-time news on popular stories, images, and videos. We provide this service by scanning thousands of updates on the worlds most popular micro-blogging service, Twitter.com and with the help of users whom have added our retweet button to their blog or website. The word retweet has now become one of the most popular terms online and describes the action of repeating or sharing someones original tweet / story. We live in a world where for the first time in history real-time news is possible thanks to modern web technologies and crowd-sourced content creation, retweet is here to leverage this modern way of announcing and discovering news. We pride ourselves in providing “news for the people, by the people”.. meaning we do not decide what news finds it’s way to the home page of our site.

Retweet is still a baby ( thus the BETA ), expect to see many improvements over the next few months as we have great things in store. In the mean time, help us improve the service by adding our button to your blog.
ff0000;">NOTE: this clearly refers to us releasing many improvements ( many tweetmeme does not have ) and again mentions we are in BETA, most the bloggers failed to take note of this.

2. Some history behind the service ReTweet.com
Retweet.com is and always has been a side-project, as our software products are our priority. We purchased the Retweet.com domain name over 4 months ago for a substantial amount of money knowing exactly what we were going to do with it. At this time tweetmeme had around 200k monthly visitors.

3. What inspired for the creation of a service around Twitter.
I ( Tyson Quick – COO ) thought up the idea around the same time the plane crash happened in the Hudson river and it was first reported via TwitPic… real-time “crowd-sourced” news was being born. I’m also a fan of DIGG.com and this is where the initial inspiration came from ff0000;">NOTE: people are also trying very hard to not give credit to DIGG or Slashdot for pioneering this kind of service, as well as the look and feel of the platform. Why? Refer to the demographics ;) . Believe it or not, our team had this idea before we ever saw tweetmeme’s service.. although they were obviously the first ones to jump on the bandwagon.

4. What are the long term business plan and business model for ReTweet.com?
I cannot yet expose our business plans for retweet.com at this time, although we do have a well planned business model ( note: this does not rely on us ever passing tweetmeme in traffic ) – Although this is one of our long-term goals.

5.  What new features can we expect from ReTweet.com in coming days?
We will first be matching our competitors features 100% and then adding additional features we thought up ourselves. These features will be announced as they come out. But, I’ll assure you our users will like them and they Will greatly improve our existing platform.

6. How big or small is ReTweet.com, as a company?
Retweet.com is run by Mesiab Labs: Mesiab Labs is an LLC established and registered in Boise, Idaho. The company was initially funded by the now dissolved software company Easy Ad, owned and operated by Kevin Mesiab. The executive team consists of Kevin Mesiab ( CEO ), Tyson Quick ( COO ), and Sean Boone (Director of Design). Mesiab Labs builds market leading software and web based applications in various markets. We have a total of 4 people on Staff.  All our projects are self-funded, we have never accepted VC or outside funding.

7. What do you have to say about Twitter banning @retweet account.
We believe Twitter Banned our @retweet account because they are trying to trademark the term ( we have a pending trademark as well ) and because of their up-coming launch of their internal retweet function. From Twitter’s standpoint they might be worried about a 3rd party owning an account on their platform that is associated with the 2nd largest twitter term ( 2nd only to tweet )

8. What are your thoughts about Twitter getting the copyrights on Tweet and ReTweet? [We have read the story on mashable and other blogs about it, but wanted to know your perspective, so please do not give any links, instead give your opinion]
Well the term tweet has already been denied and we believe the same will occur with the term retweet.  We are confident that we will be granted it if anybody gets the trademark because of the related domain name and the fact that the domain has been registered for over two years before we purchased the rights to it.

9 How do you think, you stand out from your competitors?

We focused primarily on our categorization algorithm and it is indeed better then tweetmeme’s and will be constantly improving. ff0000;">NOTE: not one blogger mentioned this feature, although it should be the primary focus on a site like this. Right now we have not added many features that differ from our competitors, we first have to play the catch-up game. We have many features planned that have yet to be implemented. Right now the main thing that stands out about our company is our brand power and our extensive experience in online marketing. We also own our own url shortner rt.nu that is being implemented with retweet, as well as checkretweet.com on the user pages.

10. What about the claims that we “stole” tweetmeme’s code
retweet.com is not using a single line of tweetmeme’s code, 1 month before launch our main developer on this project was testing tweetmeme’s button on our server and dissecting how it worked.. ( competitive analysis ). Tweetmeme then contacted TechCrunch UK whom released the story as a way to discredit and keep users from using our service, ( keep in mind it hadn’t even been released yet ). You can read that here http://rt.nu/t_wy , notice the very two sided comments. The database table that contained the name tweetmeme was simply a dumb choice of one of our developers to make it easy for him to remember… Again we are not using any code of tweetmeme’s. Although, they are indeed trying to make the public believe this.

11. If you want to tell something else to our readers, you can tell
Retweet.com will remain an extremely social site, holding monthly competitions, etc. We plan to build an engaged community, not just a news feed that lets you add a button.

Photo Credit: Balakov

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About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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