Microsoft China needs to follow Geek Rules: Don't rip off code from Plurk!

Not all geeks are created equal. But in the sacrosanct room of all things geeky, there are rules to follow. There aren’t a lot mind you. But the few that exist are rather self-explanatory and downright compatible with the general ethics of this thing we call LIFE. Take this rule for example: Thou shalt not rip off code from a startup (especially when you’re a big conglomerate).

We were first tipped off by high profile bloggers and Taiwanese users of our community that Microsoft had just launched a new Chinese microblogging service that looked eerily similar to Plurk. Needless to say we were absolutely shocked and outraged when we first saw with our own eyes the cosmetic similarities Microsoft’s new offering had with Plurk. From the filter tabs, emoticons, qualifier/verb placement, Karma scoring system, media support, new user walkthroughs to pretty much everything else that gives Plurk its trademark appeal, Microsoft China’s offering ripped off our service. [Plurk Blog]

Microsoft China has allegedly copied off a huge chunk of Plurk. Yeah, in other parts of the world, Plurk is pretty huge, with a genius Karma system coupled with the horizontal scrolling timeline. The design, home page, and UI look really familiar and Plurk has called them out. The only devils advocate stance I can take with this is that keeping China under the great firewall keeps them out of the loop. But we highly doubt it’s a wall … more like a one way mirror.

This Club MSN thing (a “nofollow” to you MSN China!!!). It’s bad. It’s a rip off. Plurk has every right to be mad, even without direct proof. Just look at it.

Update: Microsoft has responded and it seems that a third-party contractor is to be blamed:

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Earlier today, questions arose over a feature developed by a third-party vendor for our MSN China joint venture. We are working with our MSN China joint venture to investigate the situation.

Unfortunately, when these questions first arose, it was the middle of the night in China. Now that the day has begun in China, our teams are working hard to track down the information.

Here’s what we know at this point. Our MSN China joint venture contracted with an independent vendor to create a feature called MSN Juku that allowed MSN users to find friends via microblogging and online games. This MSN Juku feature was made available to MSN China users in November and is still in beta.

Because questions have been raised about the code base comprising the service, MSN China will be suspending access to the Juku beta feature temporarily while we investigate the matter fully.

We will provide additional information as we learn more.

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