TikTok has reacted to Facebook’s copy cat product ‘Reels on Instagram’ but that hasn’t stopped accusations of idea theft from other startups who have found themselves between Facebook’s powerful jaws.
Facebook has had a history, since its origin, of copying (or stealing) ideas. It seems to have become a company culture but this charge is not peculiar to Facebook. The latest in this list of unimpressed businesses is TikTok a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based Internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming.
After Facebook shares surged, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth rose; kicking him into the exclusive list of billionaires worth over $100 billion. This surge in share price came a day after Zuckerberg’s Facebook launched ‘Reels on Instagram’- a feature that is modeled after the hugely successful app, TikTok.
TikTok, in a statement from its CEO, Kevin Mayer, has called this feature a “copycat product” and are in no way impressed by this move but they are also bullish about their future prospect. TikTok has found itself in the eye of the storm between the United States and China.
Facebook, like many of the big tech companies, has often been accused of preying on smaller startups and lifting from even big companies. Instagram Reels won’t be the first time a product has been lifted willy-nilly by Facebook into one of its powerful platforms.
Sam Mueller took to his twitter handle (@sam_mueller) to express frustration over Facebook stealing his app and making it into a feature- “IG Threads”. Mueller had made the error of presenting it at Facebook’s React developers conference.
Here are some other features and products Facebook has been accused of either copying or stealing:
Twitter hashtags (#-tags)
This feature definitely improved the user experience on the Social media platform. It completely revolutionised how people connect and share ideas on the platform. Facebook saw it was good and “borrowed” it.
Twitter ‘Trending Topics’
Twitter users began to enjoy the luxury of Newspaper headlines long before Facebook considered the idea.
Facebook company has implemented the ‘stories’ feature across Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp
Facebook has also adopted the Periscopeco service as ‘Facebook Live’
Byte’s (byte.co) founder, Dom Hofmann (@dhof), has also accused Facebook of copying a lot of his work in reference to Instagram’s (e.gg)
Perhaps the equivocation, “Good artists copy; great artists steal”, often alluded to Picasso is sufficient euphemism for this pilfering
It is quite apparent that Facebook intends to create a supermarket of services and with Facebook Pay, it does seem that the idea is to build an American “Wechat”
Asked by a Twitter user if there is legal recourse, Mueller was quite resigned in his response.
It is frustratingly difficult to patent original ideas in the tech industry. We reserve our outrage for Chinese tech firms who clone our technology and keep mum when big U.S Tech firms at home prey on small startups. The question remains:
- How can small businesses be better protected?
- What are the rewards for originality?
What remains true as we wait for answers is that indeed good tech companies copy but the really great ones steal. This is true be they Chinese firms or American firms.