It’s OK to Localize a Web Service, But it’s Not Cool to Copy the Website


…A case in point is the new Chinese social media app PengYou which is a clone of the social media dashboard-cum-diary Path.

So it’s absolutely fine – and most welcome – that PengYou has made a localized kind of social media diary app that plugs into Sina Weibo, Douban, et al. In fact, I want to sign-up and try it out. But it crosses the line when it also so shamelessly copies Path’s entire website too. Compare and (pictured side-by-side in the above image) and see the exact same design elements at the exact same heights, with a distinctive (and cool-looking) blurry photo of a girl offset by a close up of the app on an iPhone 4.

That’s taking it too far, and makes you wonder whether the start-up knows how to run itself, or just how to hit Ctrl-C and then Ctrl-V.

On a similar note, fellow blogger Willis said earlier this summer that “it’s the execution that really matters,” and not the idea. And while I agree with that, and love to see a localized idea beat-out some wrong-headed opposition – hello Taobao, goodbye eBay! – there’s an extent beyond which the localization is conceptually closer to ripping-off. And that’s a line PengYou crossed with its website.

Anyway, no hard feelings. I’m trying out the PengYou service, and love the slick app, which looks even better than Path’s. It borrows some design cues, but it’s mostly distinctive. Could well be worth a review…

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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