Hasbro, Mattel fight Facebook scrabbler Scrabulous

One of Facebook's best third-party apps may soon shut down.


Farhad Manjoo
January 17, 2008 2:23AM (UTC)

The vast majority of third-party applications built for Facebook are, as Kara Swisher said it best, designed for toddlers.

You know the ones she's talking about -- all those digital hot potatoes and zombies, annoying little things your friends send you and expect you to pass around to others, as if you didn't have a life, as if you could spare a minute from your job of constantly praising Apple.

Advertisement:

So along comes an actually innovative and cool Facebook app, one that ties together two old ideas -- your friends (i.e., your "social network") and the classic game Scrabble -- to create something delightfully new, and as soon as it catches on the suits move in to close it down.

The game is Scrabulous, a fun Facebook-based Scrabble clone built by two programmers in Kolkata, India (aka Calcutta). (Click here to go to the app; you've got to be a member of Facebook to use it, naturally.)

The game has attracted more than 600,000 "active" users, and it's easy to see why -- it's kind of addictive, just like Scrabble.

But the BBC reports today that Hasbro and Mattel, the co-owners of the Scrabble trademarks, have asked Facebook to shut down the application for violating the companies' intellectual property. It seems only a matter of time before Facebook complies; perhaps Scrabulous could change its name or aspects of the game to move back from being a direct copy of Scrabble, but as it is now, the violation is pretty obvious.

But the legal action, too, is short-sighted. One reader told me that he was moved to buy an actual Scrabble board game after having a lot of fun on Scrabulous. That kind of thing is probably not widespread, but I imagine Scrabulous is getting a lot of people into the game, perhaps prompting them to trot it out at their next gathering.

The toy makers could also benefit from a deal with the two developers, brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla. If it licensed the game from them and rebranded it as Facebook Scrabble, it could generate a bounty in ad dollars. (Scrabulous displays ads on the game page.)

Advertisement:

If you haven't played Scrabulous, try to do it soon. Its days look numbered.


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

MORE FROM Farhad Manjoo

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Facebook

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••






Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •