When the Facebook platform launched two years ago there were hundreds of copycats of successful applications that popped up almost instantaneously. Two years later we are back in the same position except this time it’s big app developers stealing from each other. Flixster and iLike have literally stolen entire chunks of Living Social’s extremely popular Pick 5 application which has attracted over 14 million users in a couple of weeks.
Early on the Facebook platform was considered the wild west but it appears that not much has actually changed. Large developers publicly steal from other developers which occasionally end up in costly legal battles. This time around there’s no indication that it will end up in court but for large developers with millions of dollars of funding and cash flow, directly ripping off other companies seems like a pretty weak strategy. Then again Facebook directly rips off features of other companies, such as the “Like” feature on feed stories which was lifted from FriendFeed.
Violate The Rules First, Apologize Later
The best practice on the Facebook platform has become “break the rules, apologize later” and now that has apparently become the rules between leading developers. It’s an unfortunate situation for developers because they are forced to constantly push the limits until Facebook or another company arbitrarily decides to take action.
It’s a similar environment to becoming an international company and having to learn about government corruption and bribery in the country of operations. Is it a best practice to bribe public officials? Is it worth the risk? There are a lot of questions that take place when a company expands internationally and there are starting to be just as many when a company decides to build a social application.
Examining The Evidence
So before I criticize these companies of flagrant ethical violations, it would probably be a good idea to post screenshots comparing the various applications. The two areas where iLike and Flixster are ripping off LivingSocial is in the feed and within the applications. First lets examine the application interface where users select their favorite authors, artists, actors, movies, and other things.
LivingSocial Pick 5 Interface
Flixster Pick 5 Interface
iLike Pick 5 Interface
So we’ve displayed it in the order of LivingSocial, who created the original design, then Flixster followed by iLike. Do these three look similar to you? iLike appears to have gone the furthest to avoid duplicating LivingSocial by removing the centrally located search box and by switching the primary phrase of “Pick your [category]” to “Name your [category]“. Flixster however has essentially created and exact duplicate of LivingSocial’s design. Next up we’ll look at the feed stories that are created by each of these applications.
LivingSocial Pick 5 Feed Screenshot
Flixster Feed Screenshot
iLike Feed Screenshot
We’ve displayed the feeds in the same order as last time. As you’ll notice this time around, iLike has a much more similar design. They’ve actually gone so far as to directly steal the “Pick Your 5″ icon directly from LivingSocial. The two icons are indistinguishable. Flixster however has gotten “creative” and has switched the icon yet has kept the same phrase: “Pick Your 5″.
Aren’t These Companies Supposed to Be Creative?
Living Social now runs the fastest growing application on the Facebook platform since the redesign and the other large developers want to get a piece of the action. In my own opinion though they’ve crossed the line and have literally stolen assets and the interface of LivingSocial’s Pick 5 application. If you’re going to steal then I guess steal from the best.
While the Facbeook platform is still a relatively volatile environment (Facebook makes changes regularly), you would hope that the leading developers would set a moral and ethical precedent. Apparently we’re still playing in an environment anything goes though. If that’s the case, I just came up with a great new design for Living Social’s Movies application below. What do you think about my creative design?