With its push into international markets heating up, Facebook appears to be setting its sights on a handful of popular ‘copycat’ social networks whose web sites bear an uncanny resemblance to its own.
StudiVZ, the German social network that the company filed suit against on Friday (Click here for a copy of the complaint), claims to have 10m users scattered across Germany, Austria, and a handful of other countries in Europe. That’s a lot of people, the most active of which ostensibly aren’t using Facebook’s German-language site.
From the looks of it, StudiVZ should be an interesting test case for Facebook’s intellectual property claims. The site, it’s fair to say, looks almost exactly like Facebook – except that it’s red, not blue. It has groups, a section for photos, and even its own version of the Facebook “wall” where friends can leave each other messages. Many of the page layouts look identical to those on Facebook.
Ten million users is nothing to sneeze at (StudiVZ recent sold to a big German publisher for a suspected 100m euros). But a bigger challenge to Facebook could come from clones elsewhere, especially in China, where Xiaonei, another site that bears striking resemblance to Facebook, boasts more than 15m registred users and has raised $435m in venture funding.
Various tallies around the web have identified at least nine other major alleged Facebook clones. It’s not clear whether Facebook intends to pursue other alleged copycats. But with its lawsuit Friday, Facebook has put them on notice.
Update: StudiVZ responds
It took almost 48 hours (thanks in part to Facebook’s decision to file its suit late in the afternoon on a Friday, long after Germany closed down for the weekend) – but StudiVZ has finally issued a response to the Facebook suit. The money quote, from Marcus Riecke, chief executive:
“There are numerous social networks. Facebook was not the first and certainly isn’t the only one. By attempting to harm studiVZ through a meritless California lawsuit, Facebook is arrogantly laying claim to an international monopoly over social networking sites that the facts show it does not deserve.”