The technology world is full of little ironies. Today, one of them is that one of the world’s largest software makers—which has been working with law enforcement, industry groups, and legislators for decades in efforts to counter software piracy and copyright infringement—has itself engages in outright theft of another company’s software. Microsoft has come clean, admitting that its MSN China joint venture stole code from Canadian micro-blogging service Plurk.
The fracas stems from MSN China’s launch of a social networking and microblogging service dubbed Juku, which bore more than a little resemblance to Canada-based microblogging service Plurk. Then the resemblance was brought to Plurk’s attention, they claim to have found hundreds of instances of, essentially, outright theft of Plurk’s code, on top of a not-even-barely-concealed ripoff off Plurk’s interface and feature set. And it’s not as if Plurk’s interface is generic: the service uses a unique side-scrolling timeline for users’ posts and activities.
Microsoft is setting the blame for the copying on a third party vendor with whom it contracted to produce the Juku service, but is nonetheless assuming responsibility for the theft. “We are obviously very disappointed, but we assume responsibility for this situation,” Microsoft wrote in a statement. “We apologize to Plurk and we will be reaching out to them directly to explain what happened and the steps we have taken to resolve the situation.”
Microsoft has suspended access to its Juku service indefinitely.
Although Plurk isn’t a major player in the North American social networking scene (unlike, say, Twitter), Plurk has found quite a lot of traction in Asia. Plurk claims to be 10 times more popular than Twitter in Taiwan.
The companies haven’t revealed whether Microsoft will be offering any sort of financial compensation for ripping off Plurk’s interface and code, or whether Plurk intends to pursue any legal remedies.