I hear this morning that two Boston boys are planning to sue the founder of www.facebook.com for 'stealing their idea'. They claim that their site www.connectu.com was the original and the first.
It reminds me a little of the many emails I get from people asking for my [free] opinion on their latest new business idea, but expect me to sign a barrage of normally-not-worth-the-paper-it-is-written-on NDA documentation before they are prepared to 'open the kimono', worried I will somehow steal their idea.
The truth is that the world is full of great ideas and innovations, many of them hatched over a few pints down the pub or in flashes of inspiration after being frustrated with a product or service that doesn't meet their needs. Ideas are actually ten a penny.
But the key to bulding a successful business is probably 5% about the idea and 95% about the IMPLEMENTATION.
It took me about 60 seconds this morning (and that's a lot of time in terms of website attention span) trialling both sites, to see exactly why Facebook has worked and Connectu hasn't. Facebook is fast, simple and demands you to sign up before it reveals its content (which is a good strategy, given that you are dying to know whether you are featured on it) - whereas connectu forces you through a complex, slow search system complete with an irritating and probably unncessary popup (my computer doesn't do popups so I can't tell you what it was there for) which I actually kicked out of, it was taking so long.
The Devil is always in the detail in business - and it isn't easy to get it right. That's why the prize every time goes not to the person who came up with the idea, but to the person who is able to translate it into a customer experience which captures the imagination.
30 million users worldwide, mainly viral, is hugely impressive.
So in my view, the Boston boys should stop crying into their cornflakes and wasting time and money on pointless litigation - and spend their energy on creating a website which is quick easy fun - and actually works. Far more fulfilling I would have thought than spending the next few years in lawyers' offices.
Perhaps they could found www.coulda-shoulda.com - a site devoted to all those people who missed out on the big time - because they were too busy thinking about their great idea than actually doing anything about it.