Poison app Phhhoto, which was discontinued in 2017, is suing Facebook with claims of copying

Phhhhoto’s founders have sued Facebook for violating US competition law. The founders claim that Facebook pretended to buy Phhhoto, but secretly pushed the app out of the market. Phhhhoto let users create gifs.

Facebook allegedly held talks with Phhhoto in February 2015 about “integrating” the app into the app’s News Feed, the founders of Phhhoto told The New York Times. These talks between Phhhhoto and Facebook are said to have lasted several months, with “little progress being made on the proposed integration,” the founders say. Facebook allegedly said there were “legal hurdles.”

At the end of March that year, Instagram, then part of what is now called Meta, is said to have introduced a measure that prevented Phhhoto users from looking for Instagram friends. The Phhhhoto founders say they have contacted Facebook. This company is said to have said Instagram would be “disgruntled” with how Phhhoto would grow as a platform through Instagram. Phhhhoto let users create gifs with their camera simply by holding down the camera button. These gifs could again be shared via platforms such as Instagram.

Later that year, in October, Instagram introduced a feature the Phhhoto founders call “a clone” of their app. By this, the founders are referring to the Boomerang feature, which allows users to easily create and share looping gifs. TechCrunch noted at the time that the feature was very similar to what Phhhoto did.

The latest “anti-Phhhoto measure” Instagram is said to have introduced is making Phhhoto content less visible. The founders say they have demonstrated this by posting two gifs on Instagram. One was posted through the account associated with a Phhhoto account, the second was shared through a new Instagram account with no associated Phhhoto account. This second, new account would have gotten more views than the Phhhoto link account. Additional details are not given; for example, it’s not clear whether the gifs were posted online at the same time.

Phhhoto finally closed in June 2017, after there were no new investments and the app was no longer seen as profitable. TechCrunch wrote at the time that the platform had ten million accounts and four million active users, 1.6 million of which are active daily. Together, all users had created 400 million images.

The Phhhoto founders are now saying that Facebook was merely procrastinating so that the company could release a clone version of the app. With the lawsuit, the founders want to enforce compensation. How much is not clear. Meta says that nothing about the lawsuit is correct and reports that he will defend himself. The Phhhhoto creators have Gary L. Reback as their attorney; In the 1990s, Reback convinced the US Department of Justice to sue Microsoft for violating competition law, according to the NYT. Microsoft settled in 2001.

Examples of the gifs that could be made with Phhhhoto