I have been observing that for a while hesitating to publish the thought, but today, i decided to push the button. Since i am the web industry (nearly 10 years) i realized that very few companies are really innovating. They basically drive the industry which is simply following up, creating variations or simple copies of the original model. Yahoo invented the portal, ICQ instant messenger, Amazon e-commerce supermarket with their famous tab structure, Google re-invented search (Inktomi and Altavista were the pioneers)...Sometime you don't invent a practice but you set a standard: Facebook for example with social networks or Skype for Voip
The same goes with smaller companies but also with blogs. I have just read an article of ParisLemon on ArsTechnica copying other blogs (there are many other examples like this). Since i started with Techcrunch, i have seen around me this happen so many times, including people that are trying to follow the same path as i did, by writting for big blogs or just taking what i do on techcrunch france and replicating it on their own blog. I have no problem with that (i also "copy" when the idea is good). This is how it works. Other get inspired by others.
I have no problem with that unless you don't mention the credit to the original model or standard, and unless it starts to hurt your own business.
There are clear cases when the law can interfere to stop someone from copying what you do. That's what copyrights law are made for. There are also some cases when it is not so clear it is worth launching a legal war and sometimes an email/ conversation can solve the issue. I see that happens all the time: a logo that is too close, a website design to similar.
I'll give you an example of the copy/paste nature of the web with a company we have invested in. Outbrain is providing a rating system with a block or related posts for bloggers and readers. You can see that block in my own blog at the bottom of most posts (You can also see it on VentureBeat, CenterNetworks and other big blogs). Here is a screenshot below
It was launched about a year ago. I discovered less than 6 months ago that a startup called Zemanta was offering exactly the same feature, with the same design, in the same real estate. It is hard to believe they did this without copying Outbrain's model. Here is below a screenshot of Zemanta's widget you can see from Fred Wilson's blog (note Fred Wilson has nothing to do with that of course).
I hope Zemanta will change that in order to avoid user/partner's confusion. Again i don't care if someone get inspired by someone, as long as it is done correctly without a clear intention of ripp off and of course without consideration for legal rules but also for respect for users and business partners. Doing business honestly is important on the web also.
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