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Plurk, a fledgling microblogging service that has a growing audience in Asia, alleged in a blog post Monday that Microsoft China is copying not only the service's look and feel but also using large amounts of the startup's code base in its own competing service.
"Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but blatant theft of code, design, and UI elements is just not cool, especially when the infringing party is the biggest software company in the world," said a blog post on Plurk's site Monday.
Microsoft appeared to have been caught off guard by the allegations but said it is trying to get to the bottom of the issue.
"Microsoft takes intellectual property seriously, and we are currently investigating these allegations. It may take some time due to the time zone differences with Beijing," Mark Murray, Microsoft general manager of corporate communications, said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com.
Headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, near Toronto, Plurk is barely 18 months old, but claims to have done well with its Twitter-like service, especially in Asia. That is, until April, when the Chinese government blocked Plurk's use in the People's Republic. Plurk blog posts claim that the startup has never gotten a clear answer why they were blocked.
Meanwhile, in early December, Microsoft announced its own microblogging service which it has named MSN Juku. The service is still in beta test.
Perhaps ironically, MSN Juku is available in China, Plurk said.
"Plurk was already Taiwan's biggest microblogging service, 10x bigger than Twitter in that market alone, and emerging as Asia's answer to Twitter in many of the biggest countries in East Asia, so naturally Microsoft probably saw some potential in piggybacking off the success of our unique service and launching something similar in a related market like China," Plurk's blog post said.
What really galls Plurkers, though, is the unsubtle use of the company's intellectual property in a competing players' service. The blog post alleges that Microsoft's developers used as much as 80 percent of the Plurk code base to craft MSN Juku.
"From the filter tabs, emoticons, qualifier/verb placement, Karma scoring system, media support, new user walkthroughs to pretty much everything else that gives Plurk its trademark appeal, Microsoft Chinas offering ripped off our service," the post continued. "Microsoft has taken Plurk's custom-developed libraries, CSS files and client code and just ported them directly over to their service without any attempt to even mask this," the post said.
Microsoft has not yet said how it will respond if its investigation finds the allegations to be true.
As for Plurk, the company said it's still examining its options.
Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.