Enough with the Webex lawsuit already!

By now you've most likely read in the "mainstream" technical press that Webex is suing Citrix for cybersquatting. I'm personally very surprised that this story is as big as it is and that it's been picked up by so many tech news outlets.

By now you've most likely read in the "mainstream" technical press that Webex is suing Citrix for cybersquatting. I'm personally very surprised that this story is as big as it is and that it's been picked up by so many tech news outlets. (Information Week, eWeek, ZDNet, The Register, Computer Business Review, TechWeb, and The Inquirer, just to name a few... Then again, all they're doing is regurgitating the original press release from Webex anyway.)

Here's what happened. Webex is suing Citrix for "cybersquatting," which means that they're accusing Citrix of purposefully registering domain names that Citrix knows people might use when looking for Webex products. Specifically, Webex announced a new service called "MyWebEx PC" (available at http://www.mywebexpc.com) on January 24. On that very same day, an employee of Citrix Online (whose products compete with Webex) registered about ten domain names that sound very much like the real Webex site, including names like webexpc.com, mypcwebex.com, and mypcwebx.com.

Clearly the Citrix employee who did this did a very bad thing, and it's clear that this employee (and therefore Citrix as a company) is wrong in this case. However, I'm very surprised of two aspects of this whole thing:

First, I'm surprised that Webex actually sued Citrix. It seems to me that Citrix is so wrong in this case that a simple letter from Webex counsel to Citrix counsel would clear this whole thing up, especially since we have an anti-cybersquatting law in the United States that's pretty cut-and-dry. It was passed over four years ago and has stood up to the test of time.

This makes me think that Webex sued Citrix for marketing purposes (which has been wildly successful of course). Then, Webex can start to build the public opinion that Citrix is a big, bad, mean competitor. I mean come on; Webex even released a press release saying that they were suing Citrix!

In reality, I'll bet that Citrix "the company" did not authorize this at all and that it was the knee-jerk reaction of a single employee at Citrix. (That employee, by the way, was Brent LaSala, a mid-level employee in Citrix Online's strategic development area and a member of the company since the days of Expertcity.)

Anyway, at big companies (Citrix has something like 2000 employees) it's very easy for a rank-and-file employee to do things that in no way represent the actual strategic plans of the company. For example, I used to work for a huge company (HP) and there was nothing stopping me from using my corporate Amex card and corporate hp.com email address to register whatever Dell-hating or IBM-hating domain I wanted in the name of the company. So while it was definitely a bonehead thing to do, I don't think that it's really as big of a deal that Webex makes it out to be. This brings me to my second point of contention with this whole thing:

I'm very surprised at all the news stories about this. I mean is this actually news? So one employee does a stupid thing at a 2000-employee company, and Webex sues, and all the other tech news sites play into their hand and actually report this as news! This is as bad as local tv drama-news! I could understand this being a story if Citrix was engaged in anti-competitve practices or something, but when I found out that all these stories were just because some moron at Citrix visited GoDaddy at lunch, I was surprised.

So, who's the jerk here? (or "Jag" as Ron Oglesby would say) Both companies. Citrix is a jerk for registering these names in the first place, and Webex is a jerk for suing them and releasing a press release about it.

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