App Developer Says Facebook Stole Idea for "Find Friends Nearby" [UPDATED]

The CEO of Friendthem.com has threatened to sue Facebook less than 24 hours after the first reports surfaced that the social network was testing an app that allowed people to connect with users who were physically near them.

Charles Sankowich claimed in an email sent to media outlets that he first approached Facebook with the idea in February, only to learn on Sunday that the company had quietly launched and was testing an app called Find Friends Nearby that allowed people to locate other users and connect with them using a smartphone’s GPS signal.

Facebook engineer Ryan Patterson maintains that he developed the app during a hackathon.

Update: “We are constantly testing new features but have nothing more to share at this time," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email.

“Even their language is similar to what has been on our website for years now,” said Sankowich, who claimed to have pioneered his app two years ago. He is consulting with attorneys about possible legal action. “One would think Facebook would have learned to play fair after being through the mud previously with legal difficulties, but now they are doing it again.”

The introduction of Friendshake was hailed in reports on Sunday as a step forward in the company’s efforts to improve its mobile offerings. The company also appeared to make a pre-emptive move against privacy complaints by making the feature an opt-in service.