The fact that the service was similar wasn’t the issue; there are several companies offering the same thing. Nor was the fact that the new platform used some of the pair’s code, which was open-source.
Mr. Matthieu said the name derives from his love of ninjas and has nothing to do with Nodejitsu.
“There is a trend in the software industry now around ninjas and apps/sites ending in the suffix ‘fu,'” he said in an email. “This is my second product/service launch in the past year with a ninja based theme. My last one, Teleku, was acquired by Voxeo.
“In addition for my fondness of ninjas, my son is also a black belt in karate and a red belt in kungfu. I have been surrounded by martial arts for 14 years now. There really isn’t that much in common between the Nodefu and Nodejitsu sites other than being oriental. I didn’t see any ninjas on their site. Not sure what the big deal is nor do I see any concerns with copyright.”
Still, Nodejitsu worries that its users will get the companies mixed up. “People think NodeFu is our product because its so similar and uses several pieces of our technology stack,” Mr. Squires said.
There does seem to be some confusion: “Logo and company name seems very similar,” one user wrote on the Hacker News forum. “Are NodeFu and Nodejitsu the same company?”
Mr. Robbins responded diplomatically: “I am founder of Nodejitsu. Nodejitsu and NodeFu are not related in anyway, although based on reading these comments it looks like NodeFu does use open source software we wrote, which is great to see.”
The names are especially confusing for developers for whom English is a second language. “I’ve misunderstood Nodejitsu changed their name to Nodefu. They look alike so much,” one Japanese user wrote on Twitter.
The NodeFu website does refer at least indirectly to Nodejitsu: “We started this project because the ‘other’ node.js hosting services were not sending out coupon invitations.” Nodejitsu has been working hard to get its platform ready for release and have been holding back on letting users in.
Nodejitsu has been using its name and branding for almost a year and has filed for a trademark.
“I’m probably being emotional, but I think at the end of the day, aside from the legal issue, there is a moral issue,” Mr. Squires said. “A lot of people thought we had re-branded and NodeFu was us. I spent a good portion of day telling people we were not NodeFu.”
In another twist, Mr. Matthieu’s work on NodeFu is being sponsored (but was not initiated) by Tropo, a San Francisco company that offers voice and text messaging support for apps. Tropo’s service is similar to that offered by New York and San Francisco-based Twilio, and the companies’ websites are also eerily similar.
UPDATE: Jonathan Taylor, CEO of Tropo’s parent company, Voxeo, responded to this post in an email: “It’s very important to us and to myself personally that Voxeo always ‘does the right thing.’ Yesterday we sent a very nice email to Marak Squires literally asking him what we could to do make things right. He has not responded. Perhaps he’s lawyering up, deleting his Facebook account, and hitting the gym. We’d still like to do the right thing and resolve any concerns – but that’s not possible when they won’t respond.
“…You implied Voxeo/Tropo copied something from Twilio. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voxeo is part of a group of companies including Motorola, TellMe (now owned by Microsoft), BeVocal (now owned by Nuance), and Telera (now owned by Alcatel) that invented and created the XML and web-based telephony industry ten years ago. We have been focused on enabling web developers to create telephony applications for over 10 years. We have over 200,000 registered members in our developer programs – 10 times more than Twilio – including over 23,000 developers who signed up last year alone.”
ajeffries [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries