How Not To Innovate: Trying To Create An Exact Replica Of Another Service

from the gotta-go-beyond-that dept

We've talked in the past about the importance of copying what other companies do as a business strategy (and just how common it is throughout history, despite the pejorative terms associated with it). But one of the key factors in making "copying" a successful strategy is in knowing how to improve upon what you copy. It's why Apple has been so successful over the years. Yes, it builds on the ideas of others, but does so in a way that improves them and makes them more usable.

Yet, we always hear of people fearing companies copying one another (sometimes mistakenly calling them "thieves" or decrying their unoriginality). And yet, it seems pointless to worry about such things. Even as people always seem to be afraid of big companies with big budgets copying others, history has shown time and time again that this almost never works. That's because merely copying what someone is doing not only takes you "where the puck has been" rather than "where the puck is going," but also has you focused solely on the outward, superficial aspects of what makes another product or service successful. What's missing is an awful lot of details in the background -- the knowledge of why certain things work and don't work, as well as how users and customers actually interact with the product. Such copying almost inevitably fails.

With that said, it seems like Samsung's plan to make its own Facebook, using the rather telling code name "Samsung Facebook" seems destined to fail for exactly that reason. The very fact that they're internally calling it "Samsung Facebook" shows that they're already aiming at a target in the past, rather than the future. It's the exact wrong approach and almost guarantees that whatever comes out of it will be seen as pointless by the time it launches. Learning from what others do is a useful strategy. Copying what others do can be a very important business strategy -- but it has to be done with the goal of exceeding where those others are heading, not in replicating what they've already done. That's a recipe for expensive failures.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Alana (profile), Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 4:02pm

    Perhaps this facebook will be less obvious spyware than the current facebook.


    ...Who am I kidding?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 4:26pm

    Every company talk about making their own Facebook

    Why doesn't anybody talk about making their own MySpace?

     

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  3.  
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    Al Bert (profile), Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    not quite a joke, but close enough.

    Because civilized people don't talk of such things in public.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 4:53pm

    Delete the first two paragraphs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 4:54pm

    Finally!

    I don't know how many times I've wished for something like Facebook, only run by a consumer electronics company.

    It was likely zero, but the point is I don't know.

     

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  6.  
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    PeterScott (profile), Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 5:00pm

    Fails for a different reason.

    Actually copying works fine. Samsung does great business essentially copying the iPhone.

    But copying facebook fails because facebook depends on critical mass, and that critical mass is already at facebook and going nowhere.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 5:02pm

    I can see something like a city-based facebook or a university-based facebook working. Most people have some affinity for things like where I live and where I went to school. Facebook itself got started in just such a way.

    A desire to reach out to other people who bought their phone from the same company as I did? Not so much.

     

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  8.  
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    Flix (profile), Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 5:19pm

    A little Techdirt tweak

    It'd be so easy to create a filter that replaces a double dash (--) with an emdash (). Y u no do it, Techdirt?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 6:08pm

    Disagree, unless the copy is an exact duplicate, there could be any ammount of things why one would choose the new over the old, it would depend on what an individual prioritizes when they buy their products
    One thing one person prioritizes in choosing a new product/service, might not necassarily mean that everyone else will too...........i.e. if there are two services offering near identical services, but the "copy cat" service runs so well on my cmputr, and the other a resource hog, guess what, im not gonna go for the one that lets me cook my eggs in the morning.
    How many casual buyers prioritizes that?

    The only copy i detest is the minute detail to detail copy, the only time i would support company like apple in a litigation, if a company steal your code set up shop use their unmodified code and call themselves apple, then yeah, they've got grounds, but, THATS THE ONLY FUCKING TIME litigation over copyright/patent right is acceptable in my mind..........otherwise we'll just end up in a world with people making excuses after excuse, on why we should take it further and further, all the while rationalizing to me why a kick up the ass is good for me

     

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  10.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jul 3rd, 2012 @ 7:12pm

    Re:

    This is what I thought, maybe in this case being where Facebook was could be an advantage.

     

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  11.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 4th, 2012 @ 12:20am

    Re: A little Techdirt tweak

    It'd be so easy to create a filter that replaces a double dash (--) with an emdash (). Y u no do it, Techdirt?!


    We've had that debate internally. I actually *like* the double dash more than the emdash. Not everyone agrees, though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2012 @ 3:26am

    Re: Every company talk about making their own Facebook

    Only time I visited myspace there were penises everywhere. That may have something to do with it.

     

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  13.  
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    Danny (profile), Jul 4th, 2012 @ 4:43am

    Re: Fails for a different reason.

    Facepalm.

    You mean apple does just fine after copying the iPhone from Samsung, Nokia, LG, etc, etc.

    The iPhone was not new or unique when it came out, lots of similar phones had been out for ages. Its just that apple sells to a lot of people that like things because they are made by apple, fanboys if you like. And said fanboys believe that nothing came before the iPhone.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2012 @ 7:45am

    But this is HOW to innovate. Why bother doing R&D, studying the market, looking for niches and all of that very expensive research, when you can let someone else do it for you, and just reap the rewards? Oh yea, patents. Not completely evil are they?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2012 @ 10:42am

    Facebook would be the last company I'd want to copy right about now. Having been long term AOL and MySpace users, I saw the slow dissatisfaction creep into those service that I now see growing among many Facebook users. I also see Facebook, for the most part, blithely ignoring that growing dissatisfaction and doing things the way they want to do them just like AOL and MySpace did.

    Just as AOL was dominant ten years ago and MySpace was dominant five years ago, it seems like just a matter of time before Facebook's sun sets as well (if they continue down the path they are headed).

    Instead of trying to emulate Facebook, a company would be better served keeping their ears open and building a service with features people say they want and just wait. With each passing week I see more and more people on Facebook shopping around for a new service (G+ might have a chance if they'd just be patient and stop trying it shove it down people throats).

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2012 @ 10:54am

    Re:

    Yes, completely evil.

    Patents preventing that second guy from "swooping in" means preventing competition on prices for the patented product.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Fails for a different reason.

    Similar, not same. The iPhone is unique in that there was not a phone *exactly* like it.

    Agreed with the point you're trying to make though.

    It's funny to see pro apple folks talk about how *everyone* copies apple while being blind to the fact apple copied FROM *everyone*. That's how competition works.

     

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  18.  
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    Andrew F (profile), Jul 4th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Fails for a different reason.

    Samsung copies the iPhone but adds stuff to it -- super AMOLED,different processors, larger screen, Android, etc. And it's selling at a different price range.

    Not sure what Samsung can add to Facebook.

    That said, I think the takeaway might be less about copying and more about playing to your strengths. If Samsung had a reputation for building great software, I'd be curious. As it is, Samsung's Touchwiz software is definitely the weakest part of its phones. And I don't have a lot of confidence in Samsung's ability to build its own social network.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 5th, 2012 @ 12:33am

    Re:

    But this is HOW to innovate. Why bother doing R&D, studying the market, looking for niches and all of that very expensive research, when you can let someone else do it for you, and just reap the rewards? Oh yea, patents. Not completely evil are they?

    Woosh.

    Point being: if you just copy YOU DON'T REAP THE REWARDS, because no one gives a shit about someone who just does a direct copy.

    This has nothing to do with patents.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2012 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Fails for a different reason.

    ... and there still isn't a phone that is exactly like it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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