Home Microsoft Caught With Hand in Plurk’s Cookie Jar?

Microsoft Caught With Hand in Plurk’s Cookie Jar?

This morning, we got news that Microsoft had unequivocally ripped off design and code from marginally successful microblogging service Plurk.

Now, we’re seeing reports – and seeing for ourselves on the Microsoft website – that the knockoff site has been unceremoniously ganked from the tubes. Did a major corporation get caught red-handed stealing intellectual property from a startup? Say it ain’t so! More interestingly, is the removal of the site an admission of guilt? And are these side-by-side source code screenshots incriminating or what?

We received an email from a Plurk co-founder Amir Salihefendic this morning calling MSN China’s Juku an obvious plagiarism. The proof is in the pudding. And the screenshots. And the source code:

Currently, the Microsoft microblog site reads something along the lines of “We regret to inform you that the service is temporarily not available due to system maintenance. Please visit the site again later. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Perhaps they ought to be apologizing to Plurk for the inconvenience.

“We were absolutely shocked and outraged,” wrote Plurk rep Dave Thompson, “when we first saw with our own eyes the cosmetic similarities Microsoft’s new offering had with Plurk…

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

Microsoft has issued this press release that passes the buck on to an unnamed third-party contractor. Is it likely that the Microsoft executives in charge of producing the microblog were a) unaware of Plurk’s existence and design to the extent that they wouldn’t recognize a clone as such, and b) that they didn’t simply point at Plurk and tell their vendors to “make us one of those”?

Having had some experience in both startup development processes and corporate application deployment, I personally know very well that a criminal amount of IP theft goes on every day in Silicon Valley and around the world. Most of the time, the offending parties are operating under the belief that they won’t get caught. And a great deal of the time, they’re not caught.

We must, however, applaud Microsoft’s taking the site down to investigate the matter rather than being defensive or litigious. Still, the software giant should be accepting more accountability for the attempted theft that was conducted in its name and under the auspices of its brand.

What do you think? Who is to blame in this situation? Cast your vote below, and tell us what you really think in the comments.

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