Microsoft China Plagiarises Plurk

plurk_design_theft.png

Top Asian micro-blogging service Plurk has apparently been subject to brazen plagiarism by Microsoft China, in a case which raises unsettling questions about the business ethics of both Microsoft and its Chinese developers.

Plurk explains its grievances:

• Microsoft China officially launched its own microblogging service, MSN Juku/Hompy/Mclub, some time in November, 2009.

• The service’s design and UI is by and large an EXACT copy of Plurk’s innovative left-right timeline scrolling navigation system. (see screen captures below)

• Some 80% of the client and product codebase appears to be stolen directly from Plurk! (see evidence below).

• Plurk was never approached nor collaborated in any capacity with MS on this service.

• As a young startup, we’re stunned, shocked, and unsure what to do next and need your support and suggestions.

plurk_design_theft.png

A little overly inspired, wouldn’t you agree? Of course, we understand others will always be motivated to emulate and take bits and pieces of visual and functional elements from widely successful services and carve out localized versions.

Plurk was already Taiwan’s biggest microblogging service, 10x bigger than Twitter in that market alone, and emerging as Asia’s answer to Twitter in many of the biggest countries in East Asian, so naturally Microsoft probably saw some potential in piggybacking off the success of our unique service and launching something similar in a related market like China.

If this was just a case of visual inspiration gone too far, we could probably have lived with it. We would have taken the time to reach out to Microsoft, get colour on the matter and try to amicably resolve it.

That’s not the case here. This is something far more sinister. On closer inspection, we found that MUCH of the codebase and data structures that Microsoft’s MClub uses are identical snapshots of our code.

Microsoft has taken Plurk’s custom developed libraries, css files and client code and just ported them directly over to their service without any attempt to even mask this! Here are just 3 small examples of literally hundreds we have found.

plurkcode.png

Some users in the blogosphere even speculated that Microsoft Mclub/Juku was some sort of official partnership we’d struck with Microsoft to clear a re-entry into China after our earlier censorship in the region behind the Great Firewall of China, prior to which we were the #1 microblogging service in the country.

Let’s clear the air around this. While many reputable internet companies have forged solid partnerships with Plurk, valuing our innovation and market leadership in Asia, Microsoft was absolutely not one of them.

We were never contacted by any party at MS to collaborate on such a venture nor did we give any prior written or verbal permission to anyone on their side to take our code, take our CSS, and copy the essence and ethos of our service.

We’re still in shock asking why Microsoft would even stoop to this level of wilfully plagiarising a young and innovative upstart’s work rather than reach out to us or innovate on their own terms.

Of course, it just hits that much closer to home when all your years of hard work and effort to create something unique are stolen so brazenly.

All the more ironic considering Microsoft has often been leading the charge on fighting for stronger IP laws and combating software piracy in China.

The site has since been “temporarily” pulled by Microsoft in what is presumably a tacit admission of guilt.

Microsoft may already have earned much infamy for its “embrace and extend” approach to borrowing or copying whatever it feels like, but rarely has it stooped to this level of plagiarism.

With Microsoft’s China subsidiary being at fault, many will doubtless be wondering whether this had the blessing of Microsoft head office, or if it is instead merely business as usual by Chinese developers…


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    Comment by Anonymous
    07:41 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Microsoft... you didn't even attempt to change the names of the functions...

    Avatar of Spitfire
    Comment by Spitfire
    07:53 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    China looks really motivated lately it seems, motivated to plagiarize almost everything they know of course...

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:26 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    When China held the Olympic games, many of the Flash games on their official site were direct rips of other, well known games but with a few pieces of art changed. Ferry Halim's work, for example, was plagiarised.

    All these "lolwut MS" comments shouldn't really be surprised - China is home to the masters of the knockoff whether big or small. It's just par for the course, really.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:16 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I can't say I'm surprised. The big shits in China seem to go "Hmm, I like this, we need something like it but to prove we're 'innovative' like we were hundreds of years ago, we'll copy it and not give credit"

    Ugh, fuckin' Chinks.

    Avatar of Seravy
    Comment by Seravy
    08:02 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Another fine example of why ANYTHING that is made of information, including software should be free.
    If it is good, and works, it saves time for others to use the existing code instead of writing the same thing again. Even M$ with his copyright campaigns knows that, and does it. No one in their sane mind would code something himself when it is readily available already.
    However, if it's free it won't even matter if you write your own or use an existing one from another author/company because you aren't doing for profit, you are doing it for the benefit of the users, meaning you'd have no reason to make something that's the exact same as an existing product. If you can improve on it enough so that is is better than the one from the original author, then that's good for everyone, if you can't people will keep using the original anyway. Of course if you are selling for money, then the whole thing fails, and you'll want to offer something even if the best you can do is the exact same thing or even if it is worse, to make money from it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:18 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Geezers like me who remember computing in the ancient days before Windows 95 shouldn't be surprised at all. Microsoft's been doing this shit for AGES.

    Back in the late MS-DOS era (early 90s) Microsoft straight-up ripped off a hard drive compression program called Stacker made by a small company, changed its name to DoubleSpace, and called it an operating system feature in their new version of MS-DOS. The only unusual thing was that they got caught and sued that time.

    There's a huge difference between implementing features of a rival's product (not even Microsoft claims that OpenOffice being able to open Word files is piracy or theft) and straight-up code theft.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:00 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Sue the shit out of Microsoft >:(

    Avatar of MARl0
    Comment by MARl0
    08:31 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Meh, M$ has been plagiarizing Apple for ages. This is hardly anything new.

    Comment by Anonymous
    Comment by Anonymous
    06:49 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    China does love it's plagiarism.

    Comment by Anonymous
    Avatar of Minru
    Comment by Minru
    05:38 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    China does not recognize foreign copyright. Though since they don't recognize Taiwan as a foreign country this is pretty iffy. But this is why china will always be a follower rather than a leader in technology (no or very little research). It also explains why they spend so much on industrial espionage. Of course when other countries or corps do it to them they call it stealing state secrets!

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:43 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    quite the contary, China does recognize foreign copyrights. The only problem they have is enforcement.

    Avatar of Minru
    Comment by Minru
    05:50 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    That is like saying Japan only hunts whales for scientific purposes... What a country means is not what it says. plagiarism by china state owned or controlled companies happens too. Wasn't there something bout a state owned propaganda company copying anime characters?

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:39 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Conspiracies!

    Avatar of AppleIIGuy
    Comment by AppleIIGuy
    05:46 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/184678/microsoft_pulls_the_plug_for_now_on_plurk_clone.html

    Microsoft Pulls The Plug (For Now) on Plurk Clone.

    Hehehehe

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:31 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Lol...Plurk developers aren't dumb. This is the best thing that could have happened to them.

    They'll probably get a settlement from Microsoft and they get a ton of free pub. Now people outside of Taiwan will hear about it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:45 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    l^o^l goodjop!

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:33 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Being a chinese, I feel ashamed for these non-innovative people constantly plagiarizing others' ideas or concepts and then claim their own. This is probably one of the reasons why most foregin businesses fail in China, because there is absolutley no intellectual property protection in China.

    Avatar of withheld
    Comment by withheld
    23:31 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Thanks to that, China's neighbouring countries are making a living attracting businesses with emphasis on IP protection. I see it as a good thing, China can continue producing clothes instead.

    Yes, I live in one of those neighbouring countries.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:24 17/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    All countries experience lack of IP protection at one point. I'm seeing gradual improvement in China's IP protection.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:51 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I agree, in China this is normal, infact if you make up your OWn thing its considered NOT normal. They just copy anything and call it TYPE-something something. like srsly

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:05 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    In China,This is normal

    Avatar of denn
    Comment by denn
    01:35 17/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Seems to me the MS china team (or leader) was too zealous in carrying out the company's traditional attitude towards IP.

    Good one by plurk for calling this out.

    However reading the comments makes me wonder tho: just how many of us are posting these "i-hate-MS" comments while running windows? kinda sucks the air out of our sails doesn't it?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:22 17/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Microsoft got a lot of ideas from DOS, UNIX, (Open)VMS and Amiga features.

    DOS for minor file execution functions
    UNIX for the most of the functions
    (Open)VMS for the basic kernel structure
    Amiga for the kernel-userland relations

    Microsoft is originally a programming tool company. It should return to its original roots (while at it, acquire Xerox PARC's programming language division).

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:50 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I guess Microsoft wasn't giving a lot of parent supervision to its China group. More like, the China group did whatever the fuck they wanted until they got caught.

    Hell, it's so widespread in China, it's not surprising. Microsoft needs to pull out of China or something...

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:56 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    "With Microsoft’s China subsidiary being at fault, many will doubtless be wondering whether this had the blessing of Microsoft head office, or if it is instead merely business as usual by Chinese developers…"

    Business as usual, as the site wasn't created by developers at MS China. The project was outsourced to another chinese company that was responsible for all design and coding of the site. Only surprising thing is that no one at MS China figured it'd be bad to launch such an obvious copy.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:54 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's a China thing--steal, steal, and steal. That's all they do.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:49 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    For fucks sake guys:

    A Taiwanese software company was copied by a subsidary of Microsoft in China.

    Taiwan ISN'T China.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:53 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Depends on who you ask. :P

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:19 18/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well, according to this article, it is.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:27 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

    When in china, be chinese.

    Microsofts just embracing the local culture of plagiarising.

    Avatar of Fapping Time
    Comment by Fapping Time
    12:03 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    oh come on, everything's made in china

    Comment by Anonymous
    Avatar of Riiku
    Comment by Riiku
    01:08 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    "We’re still in shock asking why Microsoft would even stoop to this level of wilfully plagiarising a young and innovative upstart’s work rather than reach out to us or innovate on their own terms."

    Uhh.... maybe because microsoft gives no fuck about China and choses the easiest way? I dunno.. anyone? (sarcasm)

    Srsly, is there no way to protect or encrypt web source code?

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:52 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    QUARITY assured.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:18 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    no more bill gates = look a like code? haha
    what you guys think?

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:22 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    And what is exactly the problem here, china have always plagiarised the rest of the world! Now that someone does the same to them they make a scandal, thats lack of shame.

    I don't agree on this practice from Microsoft, but I'm glad they took a spoon of their own chocolate.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:17 19/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    meh, another arse who can't differenciate PRC and ROC

    Avatar of Sylar
    Comment by Sylar
    01:34 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Read the article again. You are way off.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:32 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    wtf is plurk?

    Comment by Schrobby
    04:06 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    The sound you make when you puke. ^_^

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:30 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    other then the windows 7 Madobe Nanami theme where else has Microsoft borrowed stuff?

    Avatar of sycamore
    Comment by sycamore
    01:48 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Microsoft constantly steals other ideas. It's a known fact it's been going on forever. Office was one of them, DOS was infact a stolen idea iirc. M$ has on numerous occasions made slightly different products to other companies. then sued the original company with their huge fuck off legal team and deep pockets usually meaning that the company would have to accept an under the table bail out. Even recently Microsoft have been caught using GPL code.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:20 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    The original core DOS was bought and paid for. Microsoft built and expanded on it through several iterations. Please learn to computer history.

    Office was stolen? Really?

    Avatar of sycamore
    Comment by sycamore
    02:37 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I was talking ideas wise although M$ have been snagged quite a few times for using other peoples code. Feel free to google it , I'm busy with the higurashi VN at the moment.

    The irony here is that the patent and copyright system was made to prevent THIS sort of thing happening. Companies taking other peoples products and selling them as their own, not so much to stop the casual pirates that MS decided to disconnect.

    Here everyone will blame China, but China doesn't tell microsoft to do what they do. Next time you buy a console or OS consider how much microsoft is raping you in the ass (apple are just as bad ethically, as are sony, although not so much with the ps3). You can mod your xbox not designed for piracy and still get disconnected. Then they go out and do something so much worse.

    Sup kettle. This is pot. you're black.

    Avatar of cician
    Comment by cician
    03:36 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    >>The irony here is that the patent and copyright system was made to prevent THIS sort of thing happening.

    Copyright system was made to prevent this sort of thing happening.
    Patent system was made to RAPE YOU.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:28 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hah, well thats what they deserve anyway, its totally okay by me if one china company plagiarisms another, or even if microsoft does that to them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:38 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's like saying you deserve a death sentence for someone else committing mass murder. Sounds quite fair, doesn't it?

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:43 16/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    As expected of something from China





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