Goodbye, SharePoint Community. It was Nice Knowing You.

Update 3, December 24: I just received an email from Microsoft that they will be reinstating the Facebook pages again. As such, this issue is now resolved in my case.

I was thrilled to hear from Jeff Teper recently regarding Microsoft’s commitment to new on-premises version of SharePoint. These types of community interactions really bring a glimmer of hope that the behemoth in Redmond has at least a few bright people that understand the needs of the SharePoint community. For a few weeks, I was genuinely optimistic that we were looking at a brighter future for the community.

However, it is all for naught. SharePoint Magazine has received notice from Microsoft’s legal department to stop using the name SharePoint. Microsoft has already taken steps to shut down the SharePoint Magazine Facebook pages. It seems that Redmond is now going to go after anyone using the name SharePoint without applying for a special license.

In fact, Microsoft didn’t even say this to us immediately, they just contacted Facebook to have the SharePoint Magazine Facebook pages taken down.

19-12-2013 17-41-16

Granted, SharePoint Magazine is in an indefinite hiatus, but the Facebook pages contained articles published in the magazine over many years. These archives, the only ones publicly available, are now gone.

I contacted Kristen Merker in Microsoft Trademark Paralegal (just a fancy way of avoiding to say you’re a lawyer) to figure out why they had shut down the site. I asked them to reinstate the page and let her know that it would be a very bad idea to start going after community resources like that.

In response, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to have a license to use the name SharePoint, and:

If such a license agreement does not exist, our reasons for taking down the page remain – namely, it misused our SharePoint trademark in the page name and Facebook Web Address.

Needless to say, this isn’t likely going to go down well with the SharePoint community.

Oh, dang, I used that trademarked name again. Guess Microsoft will send a cease and desist letter to my blog now.

So, if you are running a community site, Facebook page, blog, or anything like that, you can expect Microsoft to come after you and take away all your hard work. Community sites such as NothingButSharePoint.com and sharepoint-community.net are in the Redmond crosshairs. Users that have had SharePoint as part of their Twitter names will likely have to rename or close their accounts. Commercial services like European SharePoint Conference may be in danger.

Specifically, Kristen Merker quoted the following rules that Microsoft now enforces:

Specifically, your social media account names and any and all pages or communities should not include any Microsoft trademarks. Any associated account, page, or community images should not include any Microsoft logos.

For holiday greetings from Microsoft this year, you’re looking at takedown notices if you use the name you previously used.

So, thank you for everything, SharePo… The community formerly know as Shar….

Well, you guys. I’m sorry to say this, but I think this spells the death of the SharePo… the old community and a lot of its resources. To survive, we need to rename any pages or groups that uses the word… HAH! I didn’t say it.

I suggest the new name for the community should be Frank.

The SharePoint community is dead. Long live the Frank community!

.b

Update 3, December 24: I just received an email from Microsoft that they will be reinstating the Facebook pages again. As such, this issue is now resolved in my case.

Update 2: Joel Oleson… The Joel Oleson… just announced that his brand SharePointJoel is now dead and that he’s cancelling his accounts.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

40 thoughts on “Goodbye, SharePoint Community. It was Nice Knowing You.”

  1. As an author at SharePoint Magazine as well as quite a few other properties which use SharePoint in their title, this is non-sensical to me. It’s in Microsoft’s best interests to keep as many people talking about SharePoint (and all of their other products) as frequently and obviously as possible.

    I’ll reach out to people I know there to see if I can find out what the story is. Obviously, someone decided to change something recently.

    M.

  2. That’s a shame. I don’t know why Microsoft does that. Seriously wondering if we have to use a different name for SharePoint-focused events like SP Saturday. I’d think that’s the reason why SharePointSaturday.org turned into SPSEvent. I have noticed that many bloggers were used to using the name SharePoint in the past and now have recently turned into completely different (Collabshow of Joel is one of the examples. Some communities should take into account the matter:
    – SharePointPromag.com
    – SharePointLive 360
    – DIWUG SharePoint e-magazine

    And lots of products and alternatives of SharePoint.

    The number is going to be counting.

  3. Marc, I totally agree – this isn’t good for the community at all. I am wondering if they will force all of us to change, or is it because they are planning to release a “SharePoint Magazine” of their own? Either way, it’s not been handled very well, especially after MCM-Gate!

  4. Am I the only one that’s not surprised by this?

    The sites and online properties that are using the SharePoint name don’t actively say on their homepage that they are not affiliated with Microsoft in any way.

    There is a lot of misinformation and inaccurate, conflicting information out there that users new the whole scene don’t know what’s authoritative and not anymore, because it seems one of the ways you make yourself employable now is to have a blog (not a bad thing), but the content is from people who are NOT on the inside on the Product Team.

    The only way Microsoft can keep on top of the misinformation is to keep tight control over the use of the brand.

    They have tight controls over the use of the logos (including the certification logos), and the name “SharePoint” falls under the use of the trademark.

    This is nothing new in my eyes, and yes some people will have to make marked changes to their personal brands, but that’s what happens when you build your career on a platform that’s not directly under your control – you take this risk.

    1. No you are not the only one. This is how trademarks work.
      To be honest I doubt that Microsoft Legal Department really care what is behind the site or Facebook page. The shut them down because it’s their right.
      Searching the trademark database indicates that you can have the same problem with many others if you use the abbreviation SP.
      http://www.uspto.gov/index.jsp

  5. My theory is there were plans to launch a SharePoint Magazine but this could be the event that foreshadows enforcement of a policy that was always in place but was loosely enforced. In any event, it is good that you published this article so that SharePoint thought leaders can plan accordingly. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I guess I should expect my SharePoint Can Do That site to get a take down as well. I haven’t been keeping it up lately, but I still have plans for it. This is sad.

  7. Nice! Thank you folks sincerely for giving us the heads up. I guess I’ll have to switch back from @SharePointHg to @SPLiquidMercury… what a load of BS. I don’t recall seeing anything like this before – however, that may have to do with MS tendency to name their products with “merely descriptive” like Microsoft Box. Somebody should put together a SP community legal defense fund. Any takers?

  8. What a gigantic epic fail on the part of Microsoft. Has there ever been software on the planet that’s rallied a global community like the SharePoint one; ever? There’s barely a usergroup / evangelist / event / blog / newsletter that doesn’t have the word SharePoint in it!! I think it’s quite frankly petty as hell and a great way to chase away the very people making this product the success it has been. I mean seriously, how much damage has been done here exactly by using the word? All the entire community has been doing for years, is help sell and evangelise the product. Great way to thank us…

  9. Did anyone stop to think that this isn’t about trademark violations, and more about containing the use of the brand as it rolls in to Office 365 and gets sunset.

  10. Bjorn, I caught you arguing that you should be allowed to do this because no one said anything for the past five years. That is like getting pulled over by a cop and barking back ‘hey no one said anything about my speeding for the past year, what is your problem?’

    With that said, the only thing that concerned me was FB yanking your page without giving you a chance to rebrand or rename. That part is pretty horrible and is causing me to rename my twitter handle..which was lame anyway but couldn’t think of anything better at the time.

    Cheers to you again for the attention grabbing article, you are a master of that.

    1. Well, the main difference, seeing the part that SharePoint Magazine played in the community and that Microsoft was extremely well aware of its existence, is that when you’re speeding, most of the time, nobody knows.

      To continue the analogy, I was speeding in the police parking lot.

      For five years.

      While they were watching and making money off people coming to see me do it.

      .b

      1. Fair enough, but with such a large force within Microsoft, it makes some sense to see a change in policy enforcement. I’m somewhat interested in seeing how far the enforcement goes.

          1. Yeah well I needed to start my Christmas shopping. And then I realized that the core subject is SharePoint and seeing two men argue about it is sorta lame.

  11. Well, many of you many know me by my former handle “SharePoint Bits”. Like Bjorn, I had been blogging, tweeting, and consulting and training under that handle since 1996. In all honestly, right from the beginning I was concerned about using the trademark “SharePoint” in my name, but like many, figured as long as I was small potatoes, Microsoft wouldn’t bother with me.

    With all the changes happening at Microsoft and SharePoint as a product, I started to get worried about being too connected to “SharePoint” and re-branded a few months ago shutting down my blog, starting a new company with a new name (Obeflow), and changing my twitter handle to @teknirvana. Looks like I dodged a bullet. (No – this couldn’t possibly have any correlation to the the timing of Microsoft pulling the rug out of the MCM program).

    Going after community members that are helping to promote the product certainly seems short-sighted and unnecessary, but most other companies protect their brands like this, so I guess it just took a few years to awaken the sleeping giant.

    Although I am building some SharePoint apps at the moment, I am now working almost exclusively with non-Microsoft development tools including Node.js, MongoDB, Angular, etc. I use WebStorm instead of Visual Studio, I even recently switched to using Kingsoft Office instead of Microsoft Office (since it has a proper Android suite as well). I guess they don’t want us using their trademark we can always choose not to use or promote their products.

  12. Incredible! Microsoft can find new and amazing ways to anger customers, fans, supporters, etc. Sha……. is one of the few products they have that is continuing to grow in use /installs and they react to this good news by “bringng the hammer down” without notice to alienate the broader community.
    Microsoft is not long from collapsing like all behemoth tech companies of the past. Over reach and heavy-handedness does not engender kind feelings from your customers and support community.

    R.I.P Microsoft your time is near!

  13. Joel has updated his post (your link) with the comment that he has received word that his facebook page – like yours – is being reinstated.

  14. I can see both sides to this. I can see why Microsoft would want to control the usage, but also see where it is only helping them (typically). I am sure there are plenty of domain squatters sitting on a lot of domains that have the word sharepoint in it.

    Is it just a matter of time now, before the SQL Server community starts receiving their Cease & Desist?

    Even more frightening, what about .NET ?

    Look at the rippling effect this can cause quickly. Practically every major (and medium) city in the world has a .NET user group, SQL Server User Group and SharePoint User Group.

    There has to be some official way for a community to receive a “License” to use the trademark. I do agree with having to have disclaimers that said “property” is not an official Microsoft property, etc.

  15. Yes, that’s a very stupid decision from MS.
    Looks like MS doesn’t want a support from partners, consultants and all sp-community.

  16. Good to know that the issue has been solved. Just a quick question, do you think that domain names containing the word ‘sharepoint’ will lead to any kind of copyright issue?

    1. Yeah, my company name was called sharepointboost and now we’re forced to change to BoostSolutions. Don’t use sharepoint in your domain.

  17. They may have reinstated the pages but they are still going after people and asking them to either change the name or take the page off. This is really frustrating. We cannot call a product by its name! insane!

  18. Maybe this observation has occurred to everyone else already, but might it be possible that, say, Microsoft’s legal department has charged ahead without talking to Microsoft’s marketing department?

    It seems a touch unlikely that a company that size would have only one *opinion* on the matter, but I could easily see *policy* going that way as a combination first-come-first-serve and winner-take-all: the people who normally keep tabs on SharePoint are fine with letting things flourish, but then an overenthusiastic legal-type sees all this Unsanctioned Brand Name Usage and, being an overenthusiastic legal-type, has the relevant policy ready to start bashing people’s websites in with, the reasoning being that if it were a bad policy it would’ve been removed already, right?

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