Skulduggery in the mind mapping apps

See the updates to this story at the end – it’s fascinating!

Have you seen MindMapr, or the web site

I was preparing an entry about these for and found an interesting tale.

MindMapr is a Google Chrome browser app that lets you make maps without being on line. is a site that lets you do the same, but with any HTML5-capable browser. These two look so similar, that I wanted to find out how they were related, so I started digging.

The ‘about’ page for told me that it was the work of David Richard and gave me his email address.   Assuming it was his site I emailed him to ask how these sites were connected.

The reply came back: “Well you caught me off-guard there. I didn’t know about MindMapr and, guess what, isn’t my domain either.  My original app is hosted here and only here:

Here are the three sites:———————————-



Mighty similar wouldn’t you say?

The first is David’s and it is open source software under the AGPL.   The second looks like a legitimate copy – legitimate because its About page links back to David and the source code.  David says he’s OK with that.

The third, not strictly a site, but a Chrome extension, is a copy by Manish R Chiniwalar who has removed links to David and the original source. He writes in the description he gives against MindMapr in the Chrome Web Store: “Due to busy schedule, i’m not able to work on the bugs and features. I’ll resume work in 2 weeks.” So he not only removes acknowledgement of the source, but the only way I can interpret “resume work” is that he is trying to pass it off as his own development.

David replied to me “I made this app open source so people could build on it and improve it but Manish Chiniwalar’s extension is an insult to the OSS community as he blatantly violates the GPL in this case and advertises it as his own creation (although he even left my Google Analytics tracking snippet in the code). I will contact Google and see to it that appropriate action is taken.”  Manish’s attempt at converting David’s work isn’t even 100% successful – it can’t save to a local file, which David’s can.

So, to the app itself – the original at of course, now in the database at

‘Mindmaps’ is a simple mind mapper written in HTML5, but effective within the limits of what it sets out to do.  Unlike many developers, David has focused on ease of use, and even offers step-by-step instructions when you open the site.  It uses a ‘drag the dot’ approach to making branches, and assigns branch colours automatically, but you can change the branch colour, as well as the font colour, size and style easily.  You can click the image for a full-size view.

It gives you plenty of control how and where you place the nodes, and subsequent moving around.  Keyboard shortcuts exist: Tab to make a child of the currently-selected branch, and Shift+Tab to make a sibling.

Although this runs in a browser from a web address, it does not store the map online.  You have a choice of saving the map to local HTML5 storage, or as a normal file on your PC.

I do think that this app needs a better name than ‘mindmaps’ which is way too generic and will never turn up near the top in a Google search – some branding is called for to make it stick – Manish got that part right.

Update 1, 8/11/2011: Manish’s extension was removed from the chrome web store and Manish wrote an email to David Richard apologising for what he did.

Update 2, 15/11/2011: Manish’s extension is back and has been cleaned up to state its true origin and remove wording implying that it was Manish’s own work.

Update 3, 16/12/2011: Now here’s a thing. (My thanks to Mohammed Irfan, who gave us the backstory in a comment.)  Mannish won a Samsung Galaxy Tab in the DIGIT Chrome apps competition using David’s code, altered to hide its origin.  Here’s the proof  (and in case that page disappears, it’s preserved in  Freezepage).

So what next Mannish?  Give the Galaxy back or pass it to David?


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4 Replies to “Skulduggery in the mind mapping apps”

  1. I extend my sympathies to you, David.

    Fundamentally, this issue boils down to that of ‘intellectual property’ which is one of the most difficult legal areas to establish your footing largely due to the fact that it isn’t an area of law of concern to the majority (i.e., the end-users of ideas).

    I’ve taken a look at your ‘Mindmaps’ & I’m excited about giving it a go. I have so many projects on the go simultaneously & find flowchart software debilitating due to having to spend more time on input than on the projects themselves!

    Wishing you all the best on reclaiming your intellectual property!

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