Google Admits to Being a Copycat
August 28, 2015
In elementary school one of the biggest insults a child could throw a their fellow classmate was the slur “copycat.” All children want to create original work, but when they feel their skills are subpar the work of another student their feel is superior. Tossing in the old adage that “copying is the sincerest form of flattery” gives way to arguments about patents, theft, and even time outs for those involved. The Techdirt podcast discussed copying in a recent episode and how big tech companies simply copy the ideas of their rivals and put their on name on it. The biggest copycat they could find was Google: “The Failure of Google Plus Should Be A Reminder That Big Companies Very Rarely Successfully ‘Copy’ Startups.”
Techdirt points out the fallacy with big companies trying to steal the little startup’s idea:
“As we’ve discussed, in the rare cases when “copying” succeeds, it’s because the second company doesn’t really copy, but actually comes up with a better product, which is something we should celebrate. When they just copy, they tend to only be able to copy the superficial aspects of what they see, rather than all the underlying tacit thinking that makes a product good.”
The article discusses how Google finally admitted that Google Plus was a copy of Facebook, because they search mogul was fearful of losing profit, users, and Web traffic. The biggest problem that Google Plus had was that it was “forced” on people, like the Star Trek Borg assimilating unsuspecting planets. Okay, maybe that is a bit of a drastic comparison, but startups are still fearful of their ideas being assimilated by the bigger companies. This is when the patent topic comes in and whether or not to register for one.
There is good news for startups: “if a startup is doing something really amazing and innovative that people actually want, you can almost always guarantee that (1) the big companies will totally miss the boat for way too long and (2) once they finally wake up, be clumsy and ridiculous in their attempts to copy.”
Also Techdirt sums everything up in an eloquent paragraph that explains the logic in this argument:
“People think it’s easy to copy because copying seems like it should be easy. But it’s not. You can only copy the parts you can see, which leaves out an awful lot of understanding and tacit knowledge hidden beneath the surface. It also leaves out all the knowledge of what doesn’t work that the originator has. And, finally, it ignores the competing interests within a larger business that make it much harder for those companies to innovate.”
In other words, do not worry about Borg assimilation if your startup has a good idea, but do be on the defensive and arm yourself with good weapons.