Facebook owes much of its superfast growth to its international editions — it’s been translated into 18 languages, and plans 54 more. Just think of how much fast it might be growing if it wasn’t competing with foreign market clones.
That’s exactly what’s happened in at least three markets – Germany, Russia and China. Last week, Facebook sued the German StudiVZ. Now the AP tells us about Vkontakte, a Russian clone that has 14 million users in Russia, giving it a big lead on Facebook, which just opened a Russian site last month.
Facebook is talking sort-of-tough — witness Mark Zuckerberg at f8 last week:
“There are different ways that we will work with companies across the world. But if someone’s blatantly ripping us off, that’s what we want to make sure doesn’t happen.”
Then again, it’s unclear what kind of recourse Mark and company are going to have chasing down intellectual pirates in China, Russia or other far-flung legal systems that might not be terribly sympathetic to young American billionaires and their startups. Investors certainly don’t seem scared — Chinese Facebook clone Xiaonei got a $430 million injection of cash earlier this year, and last year StudiVZ was bought for $120 million by a publishing company.
But what exactly do we mean by clones? Check out Facebook’s homepage, followed by its lookalikes:
StudiVZ (at least they used a different colour scheme):