So it Looks Like Amazon.com Is Going to Be a Jackass and Sue Statsaholic

Alexa – Web Discovery Machine: Alexaholic/Statsaholic Just got done reading what I thought was a pretty lame blog post over at the Alexa blog. Alexa, for those of you who don’t know, is a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Amazon bought Alexa for $250 million in stock back in the hey day. It was originally started in part by Brewster Kahle, the hero who took a bunch of his money and built the Internet Archive… but I digress.

Let’s suspend the debate for the moment about how lame Alexa is because it doesn’t include Firefox data, how erroneous there numbers are, etc. etc. etc. It’s free and it’s what we have to live with for the time being.

What’s got me pissed off today is that Amazon is threatening on their blog to sue some small time guy who built a really cool mash up of their service.

The site in question is statsaholic (formerly alexaholic) created by Ron Hornbaker and it’s a far better way to browse Alexa graphs than Alexa themselves.

From the Alexa blog:

“Alexa doesn’t take the decision to bring legal action lightly but will do so when required. We’ll pursue this issue aggressively and intend to recover the Alexaholic URL and to ensure that Mr. Hornbaker is held accountable for misappropriating our graphs and data.”

I’m a customer of Amazon.com — at Zooomr we use their S3 and EC2 service. And as a customer I have to say that I think these kind of hard handed tactics from a $16 billion company put Amazon in a bad light. Lots of start ups use the S3 and EC2 service and maybe it’s just me but I can’t imagine many of them would want to be put on the receiving end of that blog post.

The thing I think that gets me the most is that basically Alexa is built on free labor. It’s built on the dreaded “user generated content.” Alexa has suckered tons of IE users — perhaps easier to sucker than Firefox users 😉 — into installing their toolbar and basically providing them free research. Are the toolbar users compensated for this data? No.

But then Amazon wants to take that data and in turn restrict who can pull data from their site to repackage it in a better way. And then to top it off they want to bash a small time company publicly from their blog. Very unbecoming of a company that is courting many small companies for business with S3.

If Amazon were smart they would work things out with Ron. By shining this kind of attention, by the way, it only makes his venture that much more successful. I also blogged yesterday how with a simple Firefox tweak you can get statsaholic back.

Amazon is being a bully on this one and I think it’s going to backfire.

Update: Mike Arrington has a post out on this as well.

Be Sociable, Share!
Loading Facebook Comments ...

4 Comments

  1. Wow, it looks like it’s crazy lynch mob week in the blogosphere.

    Alexaholic is a straight up bandwidth leecher and screenscraping operation. It isn’t much better than a splog in that regard. Regardless of the fact that it uses fancy AJAX.

    I guess if I created a splog network loaded with AdSense ads, it’s OK as long as I throw in some fancy AJAX. 😉

    It seems pretty disingenuous of you
    to compare this to EC2 + S3. On the one hand, you have a paying customer relationship with Amazon and on the other you have a screenscraping/hotlinking service that serves ads over their content without paying them.

    Now Arrington and you are creating an online lynch mob to force Amazon to allow some guy to make money off of their service without paying them. That some Don Corleone stuff right there.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    Dare, I’d hardly characterize Thomas Hawk and Mike Arrington as a “lynch mob.” Your comparison to the mafia is more hyperbole than anything else.

    I’m simply expressing an opinion on something that matters to me. That’s kind of what a blog is for.

    I have a hard time seeing companies take free user generated content (i.e. Alexa data) and then take a hard fisted stance about what people can do with the graphs created with that data.

    For the record, as a creator of content, I’ve never objected to my content showing up anywhere on the internet. I did ask a guy who was selling exclusive Thomas Hawk prints not to sell them anymore, but I have no problem with people linking to my images.

    But certainly if Amazon owns the images then they don’t have to share as nicely as I do with mine.

    Still, when the images are based on free user generated information I have a hard time swallowing the hard handed legal lawsuit threats from Amazon.

    If Amazon didn’t want this issue addressed, then they shouldn’t have written a post lambasting the guy and threatening to sue him on their blog.

    Maybe I’m wrong here but since Amazon is catering to a lot of small sites, I think many people might not feel so warm and fuzzy about an $18 billion company suing a one man operation.

    I also find the legal threat over the name to be a bit much. Do you see Twitter threatening to sue twitterholic? Not that I’ve seen yet.

    Flickrleech, Flickr Friend Finder, Flickrnation, Flickr Toys, Flickr Uploader, Flickr Gamma Meter.

    I find the hard handed attack on Alexa’s blog a bit much. That’s my opinion. If it resonates with others I’d hardly call that a lynch mob.

    For what it’s worse. I saw a lot more value in statsaholic than I do splogs.

  3. tinou says:

    thomas,

    you make it sound like Ron (the guy that runs alexaholic/statsaholic) is some little kid doing this out of his mom’s basement out of passion, as a hobby.

    ron is a businessman, out to make money. bill gates is just one man too, you know.

    on my personal site, i leech/steal/rip-off yahoo by screen scraping their stock’s pages. but my personal site is for me, has no ads, gets about 10 visits a day from friends. it’s not a business.

    clearly you see the difference between this, don’t you?

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    *full disclosure: tinou works for Alexa.