International Herald Tribune, Facebook tried to acquire the popular German social network StudiVZ. When those negotiations ended without a deal, Facebook decided to sue StudiVZ instead for copying Facebook's look and feel. According to the article, StudiVZ's owners, the German media company Holtzbrinck Gruppe, wanted to sell, but for far more than the $134 million it originally paid for StudiVZ in 2007.According to a report in the
Facebook definitely has a point when it says that StudiVZ is basically nothing more than a copy of its own service. While StudiVZ might use a different color scheme, everything else a user would see is pretty much identical, though the recent changes in Facebook's layout can't be found on StudiVZ (yet?).
Facebook's Slow International Expansion
StudiVZ came to market not long after Facebook and there is obviously no doubt that StudiVZ's founder were heavily influenced by Facebook. Today, Facebook only has about 1.2 million users in Germany while StudiVZ has about 10 times as many.
Facebook, of course, completely ignored the international market and didn't even offer sites for Germany, France, or Spain until earlier this year. This gave others a chance to acquire users, even if they had nothing more to offer than being a Facebook clone. Today, StudieVZ almost looks antiquated when compared to Facebook, yet it has a loyal user base that is not going to switch services very quickly.
Ebay Already Did It
The best parallel to this story is probably that of German auction site Alando - a blatant Ebay clone. Alando, too, quickly became more popular in Germany than Ebay and Ebay was eventually left with no other option than to just buy Alando. Suing StudiVZ is not going to make Facebook any more popular in Germany and given how slowly users migrate between social networks, Facebook's best option is probably to just pay a bit more for StudiVZ now and then reap the benefits in the long run.