I think I may have accidentally invented Facebook …

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It was 2004, and I remember that dreamy and misty morning in January. I was walking along Harvard Square, bundled up against the biting cold. I saw a young man, who looked about half my age, walking in the opposite direction. As he approached, he stopped and asked “Hey, your face seems real familiar, have we met before?”

I asked him “Have you been to Princeton?”

“Yeah, like a year ago, when I was checking out colleges.”

I said “OK, I was a grad student in Princeton in early 90′s, and I became quite famous for writing the most boring PhD thesis ever. You may remember my face from one of those year books at Princeton”.

That very moment, his eyes lit up, and he screamed “Yes, YES, OMIGOD, Face on the book, FACE BOOK, I Got It, Now I Really Got It, That’s what I am going to do, Facebook. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, I LOVE YOU!”

He gave me a bear hug that nearly choked me, and before I could recover my poise and ask him anything, he just blasted off. I shouted after him, “Really, I am serious, I had the distinction of producing the most boring PhD ever …” but he was gone. That was the last I saw him. Until now.

When I saw the photo of Mark Zuckerberg recently, that little incident in Harvard Square came flooding back. It was a staggering realization: the whole concept of Facebook must have come to him at that brief moment we crossed each other in Harvard Square that morning. I thought to myself “Yeah, genius, so what are you going to do about that now?” To be perfectly honest, I felt a little cheated. OK, I felt really cheated. I mean, he gave me that bear hug that nearly choked me to death, and never even bothered to give me any credit, for my idea, my very own original idea, that gave him that inspiration.

So naturally I went to my lawyer, because I remember being told that is the first thing you are supposed to do in these situations. You know, like, billions could be at stake here.

He listened to my story intently, and started explaining the legal situation, in that measured, precisely crafted manner that I had come to associate with him: “Clearly you brought the two distinct ideas “FACE” and “BOOK” together in one sentence, on which the whole Facebook foundation rests, and which Mark Zuckerberg took from you, as proved by the reaction he had when the idea was transmitted to him. In legal terms, what you had was a THOUGHT-ent, also known as a thought-patent, which are considered legally equivalent to patents.”

I was getting pretty excited by now, “So what do we do now?”

The lawyer explained “Listen, the first thing we will do is to establish priority for this thougtent for you. The best place to do that is the federal court at Sleepy Valley, Idaho, where thougtents get granted quickly and painlessly. This can be done any time, because under US law, it is the first to think the thought that counts, not the first to file. Then we will start the legal process, starting with a Cease & Desist, also known as the love letter.”

“But Mark and team wrote all the code, so won’t they try to minimize my original contribution?” I protested.

“That is immaterial under US thougtent law. Anyone could write the code, it is having the thought that counts. You are the legitimate and rightful holder of one of the most important thougtents on the internet today. I would be really happy to help you get you what is rightfully yours.”

With that I thanked my lawyer and came out. The air smelled sweet outside – it felt great to be alive in this wonderful nation, the greatest on earth. Thank God for freedom and property rights, America.

Zoho in the News

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Sridhar got interviewed by Ashish of pluGGd.in. From the interview :

[Ashish] Building a competitive engineering workforce is a huge challenge in India – especially for product companies. Please share some of your experiences/insights on the same.
[Sridhar]
We have been fortunate that we started out as a product company in 1996 and stayed the course. We built a culture of creating a product, selling it to customers, which is a lot tougher than building the product in the first place, supporting customers and so on. Creating that culture is what I regard as the most important first step.

It also helps that we don’t put that much weight on paper credentials – the kind of college a person attended, their academic performance and so on. We have found that most of that is not very useful in predicting job performance. By ignoring such conventional metrics, we truly broaden the pool of people we draw our team from.

Of course, the Indian IT market is hot, and anyone with experience has a multitude of opportunities to choose from. We are fortunate in that our people, by and large, choose to stay in AdventNet/Zoho, because they like the challenge here, and they like the culture of the company. Without that team and the culture, we couldn’t have come as far as we have come.

[Ashish] Your tips to entrepreneurs
[Sridhar] It helps to have passion. It helps to keep in mind that there is no template to succeed – there are so many paths leading to success, and so many paths that result in a dead-end too, and nobody can tell you which is which in advance. Each person has to find their path, tuned to their inner nature and self. Like a grandmaster, it helps to study past chess games, while keeping in mind that each game is likely to be unique, so often the only way to know the outcome is to actually play out the game.

Ashish had earlier interviewed Raju.

PC Magazine has released its Top 100 Undiscovered Web Sites (hat tip – Mashable. Thanks, Pete!). The list consists of their “picks for the top new or under-the-radar sites of 2007. You may not know many of the sites on this list, but you should” and Zoho’s part of it.

Blog Online University Lowdown in its post titled “Top 20 Facebook Apps for Entrepreneurs” lists Zoho prominently at number 2. And Pete Prestipino at Website Magazine writes in the post, “Zoho: Office Suite Game Changer“,

I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with Zoho, the increasingly popular web office suite for quite some time, but each and every time I start, they seem to roll out either another application or feature which brings me back to phase one. As such, let’s look at the office suite products provided by Zoho right now because more than anyone else they are a real game changer and if I wait any longer they will roll out another service and I’ll have to start new all over again.

All Zoho applications are web-native, meaning no client-side software is required (no download). All you need is a browser and an Internet connection (perfect for those who are always on the road). It’s also a real boon to those needing some level of collaboration on the documents or projects they are working on.

Thanks, all!

Using Zoho Wiki for Zoho CRM Help Docs

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We are using Zoho Wiki for the Zoho CRM Help Documentation. So, when you click on the Help link, you are actually directed to http://zohocrm.wiki.zoho.com.

The Wiki-approach helps achieve collaborative editing. The knowledge of the masses is easier to collate and aggregate with this method. So, even you can edit the Wiki document and add/edit to it. There may be times when you would like to share how to achieve a particular implementation. Then, go ahead, edit the wiki! This will enable others to grow with you too as others benefit from your experience. This makes the entire experience with the product more wholesome.

We plan to enable the users to register  for Zoho CRM right from the Zoho Wiki pages too! Gopal is working on it and we hope to have that feature integrated by EOD today.

Introducing Zoho Start

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No, this is not a new application from Zoho, instead it’s an integrated start page for your Zoho Applications.

Many users know Zoho as a set of independent applications. Today we are taking our first step towards integrating Zoho Applications under a single page.

There is one important change we did in our home page. We added a login section. Earlier you had to go to individual applications to login. You can now login directly @ http://zoho.com and in a few days time you will be redirected to http://start.zoho.com from there which will evolve as an aggregated start page for all Zoho Applications.

The current version of Zoho Start integrates Zoho Writer, Sheet & Show. You’ll now be able to organize your documents, spreadsheets and presentations in folders. You can also tag, share or export them from a common interface. Presence status of your buddy list (from Zoho Chat) is also available from the same interface.

You’ll also see ‘Zoho Apps’ section on the right which lists other Zoho Applications you have access to. All of these applications are opened in a new tab in Zoho Start interface.

Try Zoho Start and we will be glad hearing your valuable feedback as always.

Questions for Zoho Creator’s Chief Engineer?

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After Suganya on Deluge Script and Sriram on Infrastructure, Security. Charles will be interviewed by Pete Thomas at ‘Land of Zoho Creator‘. Charles is Zoho Creator’s Chief Engineer. A very energetic and enthusiastic guy, he is responsible for the entire back-end development which involves feature planning, development and release.

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Pete has posted few topics which Charles will be answering. Here’s your chance to get know about Zoho Creator’s current features, upcoming features and whatever you wanted to know about the service.

You might also want to know what keeps him on his toes, NO……not for being alert or active but unable to be at his desk for long ;)

Zoho from around the web

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While Zoho Creator was the first Zoho app to have an exclusive blog dedicated to it, Zoho Sheet became the first to have a complete help book made for it. Check out the book at devGuide.net. Many thanks to Jacek Artymiak!

Lynn Aleshire
of Anchorage, Alaska has been using Zoho Projects to help her daughter with her school work. And this got referenced in an article titled
Checking the Kids’ Homework Over the Internetby Christopher Lawton at the Wall Street Journal as well.

Richard MacManus at ReadWriteWeb is having a series of posts on Web Office this week and this post has a poll on word processors. Vote for Zoho Writer if it is your favorite.

At Bootstrappr, Jessica Hupp in a post titled “The Green Entrepreneur’s Toolbox: 100 Networking Resources, Guides, and Links“, lists Zoho as one of the green tools that entrepreneurs can use for a paperless office.

Zoho Office Suite: The Zoho Office Suite has lots of great tools, but the greenest one is Zoho Meeting. You can use this tool to share desktops, hold online meetings and more, reducing the need to travel for collaboration.

We got a tremendous response for Zoho Writer moving offline using Google Gears. Blog search results in Ask (our favorite as it gets the most comprehensive results!), Technorati and Google. Thanks to all bloggers and analysts who wrote about this interesting development!

‘Land of Zoho Creator’ Gets Two New Contributors

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I am really excited to see Alan Bradford and LockWorld contributing to ‘Land of Zoho Creator‘. So, you can expect good variety in the coming days. ‘Land of Zoho Creator’ was started a month ago by a passionate user, fan and a well wisher of Zoho CreatorPete Thomas. Since then he has been exploring Zoho Creator deep into its very root and is coming out with many intelligent apps.

Alan Bradford writes interesting stuff (technology, education, and business) at his blog: Big Ugly Couch. He was the key person who dug-up and suggested Zoho Creator to K. Hovnanian® Homes™ for its business use. We have the case study on K. Hovnanian® Homes™ here.

Lockworld, a web surfer, provides some useful technical tips for the web entrepreneur at his site The Web for you. He blew our mind away by setting up the PayPal-integrated product catalog using Zoho Creator.

With Pete Thomas + Alan Bradford + Lockworld, I am sure ‘Land of Zoho Creator’ is going to be an informative and fun place to visit for all the Zoho Creators.

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Get going guys, our best wishes are with you!