Home Cloning vs Originality

Cloning vs Originality

A flickr clone; pic by

In an interview with
AlwaysOn, Fox Interactive president Ross Levinsohn talks about innovation and wanting to
be more than a company that clones other products. He takes a couple of swipes at Yahoo
in the process, for example:

“The world doesn’t need another Yahoo; Yahoo does a great job. We want to create
the next thing.”

He ends up referencing one of my own posts (!) to further make his point:

“Yahoo has sort of raised the white flag and surrendered to Comcast. Just yesterday, I
read that Yahoo has basically
turned their video service into YouTube
. This doesn’t sound like Yahoo the innovator.
Instead, it seems like a desperate move—which is interesting for one of the most
innovative, spectacular success stories in the history of the Internet.”

He pretty much accuses Yahoo of cloning YouTube with their Y! Video service. To be fair, in that post (from early
June) I noted some differences in Yahoo’s approach – although at the time I preferred
YouTube’s product.

Levinsohn pushes back on cloning when asked what advice he’d give to budding Web
entrepreneurs. He replied:

“I’d say, ‘Don’t copy the original; be authentic.’ There’s a place for
original and authentic ideas in the marketplace.
It’s a fantastic time to be an
entrepreneur because there’s much more thirst from all of the companies out there,
but you need to be smart about how you build your business. We’re looking for
innovation, but it doesn’t have to come from a $500 million company. It could be a
great idea that might work better inside a News Corp. or Yahoo or Google than as a
stand-alone giant company.”

(emphasis mine)

Cloning in international markets

Cloning is one of the biggest themes to come out of my series on international
web markets
. I’ve noticed that every country has its set of ‘web 2.0’ clones –
bookmarking sites that look like delicious, photo sharing sites like Flickr, community
news sites like digg, etc. Occasionally I find a very nice original app, such as Moltomondiale in Italy – a
special automatic semantic news aggregator that became popular in the World Cup. Or
Cyworld in Korea. Or dirty.ru
in Russia.
But these are far outnumbered by cloned apps.

And even in America of course there are a lot of clones. New Netscape = Digg
is one high-profile example.

There’s no doubt there’s a lot of money to be made cloning web apps, particularly in
huge, growing markets like China (where there is A LOT of cloning of web 20 apps). So
it’s much riskier to create something innovative, untried. You have little idea how it
will turn out and if there will be a market at all for it. Whereas with cloned apps in a
foreign market, you have a well established product template and there are a lot of
opportunities for ‘localized’ clones.

Innovative web apps is where it’s at!

But I agree wholeheartedly with Levinsohn’s sentiment that there’s a place for
original and authentic ideas in the Web marketplace. In fact that could very well be the
motto for this blog!

What do you think – is cloning web apps here to stay? Or is originality and
authenticity still worth chasing in today’s Web? Personally I hope the latter is true,
because that’s the raison d’etre of Read/WriteWeb.

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