Tracking sites halted after MySpace warnings

Lawyers for MySpace.com have fired off warnings to at least two entrepreneurs who created clever code to track the relationship status of MySpace users.

Lawyers for the social networking site MySpace.com have warned of legal action against two entrepreneurs who created clever code to track the relationship status of MySpace users.

The site SingleStat.us was active for only 10 days before a cease-and-desist letter from MySpace.com caused its creator, David Weekly, to shut down the site. SingleStat charged a small fee to be notified by email when the status of a MySpace user changed, from "in a relationship" to "single," for example.

In a letter dated June 15, MySpace cited several violations of its user policy, including a ban on the commercial use of information about its users. Weekly's automated script program, which allowed for the notifications, also put "an undue burden on the MySpace servers," according to a copy of the letter posted at http://www.singlestat.us/.

MySpace officials reached in London Wednesday morning could not immediately comment.

SingleStat burned briefly but brightly, an example of the agility of creative coders who springboard off of popular ideas and add new functions, often faster than large companies are able to. Two days after SingleStat had launched, Weekly wrote, close to 10,000 people had visited the site, and 65 blog posts were written about it in six languages.

MySpace was purchased last year by Rupert Murdoch's News for US$580 million and has a growing base of at least 73 million users. It allows users to create a simple Web page, post photos and music, and build contact lists based on friends of friends.

Just a day after SingleStat was launched, Weekly said the newspaper USA Today linked to it in its online blog, and a venture capital firm came calling.

On Tuesday, a Web site with similar functions was also shuttered after a warning from MySpace. Jared Chandler, who started DatingAnyone.com in April, said MySpace further requested that he not release the source code for the project.

MySpace bared its teeth in Chandler's letter, writing that the site violated California laws against hacking and federal trademark laws.

"I have no doubt that it provided a real service to its users, and it's unfortunate that there is no avenue for outside improvement of MySpace," Chandler wrote.

The operator of a third search site, Stalkerati.com, wrote that MySpace appears to have added a script to prevent searches, but he is working on a way to get around it.

Jared Kim runs Stalkerati.com, which is still in beta and consolidates what would be separate searches for personal information at sites such as Google, Google's image search, Friendster, Facebook and the blog-hunting site Technorati. Kim's site allows searches of all in one search box.

Kim wrote that he created the code for Stalkerati in about two hours in May when a friend wanted to research a blind date and his sister was asked out via e-mail "by a guy that Googled her."

"I hope to eliminate the hassle of going to four to five sites to find information/check out/cyberstalk (insert excuse for cyberstalking here) on someone," Kim wrote.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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