Uh oh. Looks like another case of a corporate behemoth ripping off the little guy. It's mean and nasty Microsoft again, seemingly victimizing microblogger service Plurk. The murky bit is that it's happening in China, where respect for intellectual property isn't quite the same.
A posting on Plurk's Web site explains the situation with heart-stopping honesty, and is carefully reserved given the severity of the situation: "Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but blatant theft of code, design, and UI elements is just not cool, especially when the infringing party is the biggest software company in the world. Yes, we're talking about Microsoft. Blerg."
What appears to have happened is that Microsoft, without any attempt at gaining permission, has outright copied aspects of Plurk's site navigation, UI, and code for its own China-based microblogging site Microsoft MClub. Check out the pictures of the two UIs above, and the snippet of Web code from both sites:
Plurks users, discussing the issue, had apparently assumed it was part of some deal with Microsoft, but Plurk assures everyone it wasn't at all: Instead it felt like a deliberate and calculated piece of thievery. Deliberate since Plurk alleges up to 80% of the site's codebase is just plain stolen.
The fun bit is that this happened in China, with MSN's joint venture MClub (also known as Juku) acting to create the allegedly ripped-off regional microblogging system. Protection of IP in China has long been a contentious issue, with suggestions that disrespect for someone else's IP is endemic. Microsoft itself, as the bigger parent company, has taken this seriously...and has now suspended the Juku service while it tries to sort the mess out. This is good news. And it might even represent something of a U-turn for the company, which has wholesale ripped-off other company's Web efforts for new services it wanted to offer before.