Mike Arrington has a blog post on TechCrunch entitled Amazon’s War on Statsaholic where he writes
Statsaholic (formerly Alexaholic) launched a year ago
and provided much easier access to Alexa traffic data than the Alexa
site itself. Statsaholic also had other features Alexa didn’t offer,
like embeddable graphs and data smoothing. Others agreed, and soon
started linking to Statsaholic instead of Alexa when doing traffic
comparisons. At one point, Alexa was the no. 3 search result on Google
Statsaholic was not using the Alexa web service
to get the data, because Alexa doesn’t offer the graph data via their
web service. Amazon, which owns Alexa, could have complained or simply
shut them down when it launched, but they didn’t. They actually complimented the service in a post on the Alexa blog last April.
What bothers me about the situation is that Amazon sat on it for a year, complimenting the service along the way (and copying it). Then, just when the service started getting really popular, they took drastic measures to shut it down.
I'm totally perplexed by Arrington's position here. Statsaholic is screenscraping Alexa and building a business on top of that. It seems like a pretty open and shut issue to me. The fact that Amazon didn't bother prosecuting them until they got a lot of traffic just points out that there is little point harassing folks who are abusing your service unless they are consuming a lot of your resources or are taking money out of your pocket. It seems Statsaholic was doing both.
You'd think a smart startup founder would know better than to build a business model on hotlinking and bandwidth theft. You'd also expect a Web savvy dude like Mike Arrington to know better than blame the victim in such situations. Next thing you know, he'll be flaming websites that block hotlinking to their images via htaccess. Weird.
PS: Someone in the comments wondered how Mike Arrington would feel if someone created a mashup that showed all of the TechCrunch content minus the obnoxious ads (e.g.
http://techcrunchminusads.com). I wonder if Mike would sue if the site started stealing a bunch of his traffic since it wouldn't load so many ads thus being faster and perhaps included more useful info (e.g. crosslinking TechCrunch posts with PodTech interviews)?