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Monday, December 05, 2005

Flattery or Felony?

ShoutWire sincerely likes Digg.com, if you believe the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Today popularity-driven Digg announced it is expanding from covering just tech to include other areas of news as well as someday audio and video.

Now Digg will have even more in common with ShoutWire, a site that launched after Digg and has a similar premise of ranking articles based on reader approval and popularity. Several Digg fans are kvetching that ShoutWire is an unfair ripoff.

While it's not hard to see the similarities in the user interfaces of the two sites, most "new" sites are highly derivative of others, and that trend is probably only going to increase as ideas are hard to patent and websites easy to code. Digg is similar in many ways to Del.icio.us, and both of them can trace their roots to SlashDot and about a thousand other news compilation/commentary sites.

As soon as someone finds a promising niche, the copycats will come out in force and try to do it even better. How long did it take for dozens of legitimate and phantom P2P networks to appear? If companies clearly cross the line in stealing a good idea, the public will likely let them know about it. Also, generating content from user input is only in the beginning stages.

The easy at which similar destinations and services can be cobbled together means that companies looking to lead a category have to react fast to competitors, which should increase the quality of the product for everyone. First mover advantage isn't what it used to be, but throwing stones doesn't make sense. For a good idea to last, it must be backed by continual innovation and dedicated resources.

By John Gartner at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

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