Cheating and stealing isn’t limited to just the classroom. This week Microsoft admitted stealing approximately 80% of the code base of Plurk to create a Chinese microblogging website. Perhaps the personnel department in Redmond (or Shanghai?) needs to include some additional interview questions about things like honesty and integrity?

In the company’s official response to Redmond’s admission, Plurk co-founder Alvin Woon wrote:

Countless iterations, human efforts and almost all capital resources are spent [at Plurk] to provide a unique and rich social networking environment for our users. We write our own code and give back to the community when it is appropriate (e.g. opensource.plurk.com). We play the fair game hoping that, like many young entrepreneurs out there, to be able to someday help solves other people’s problems and grow our little company.

This event wasn’t just a simple matter of merely lifting code; Due to the nature of the uniqueness of our product and user interface, it took a good amount of deliberate studying and digging through our code with the full intention of replicating our product user experience, functionality and end results. This product was later launched and heavily promoted by Microsoft with its big marketing budget.

Poor modeling, Microsoft. Shame on you and shame on your dishonest employees who carried out these illegal acts.

standing in the corner

With a budget the size of Microsoft’s, you’d have thought they would have just purchased Plurk outright rather than steal code. As smart as those programmers must be to create a microblogging platform in Chinese, you’d think they would realize the transparency of coding would bring their dark deeds into the light at some point. Given these comparative photos, does anyone doubt (even non-programmers) that code theft took place in this instance?!

an eye looking

Hopefully we’ll hear more of the backstory to this announcement in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, keep plurking! If one of your children has been asking Santa for a Zune, mark it off their list right away! And if you have a Zune, well… don’t blog about it or otherwise admit it to anyone… Consider mailing it back to Microsoft with a note of protest, asking for a refund based on your disappointment over their lack of corporate integrity. You probably won’t get one, but you might feel better and officials in Redmond might pay more attention to your act than they would an email, tweet or snail mail letter.

holding a Zune

H/T to Emil Protalinski of Ars Tecnica.

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5 Responses to Microsoft admits stealing 80% of Plurk website code to build Chinese Microblog

  1. This is unbelievable and unacceptable! Makes me wonder about all the new apps that Microsoft has been unveiling that are so similar to Google apps . . .

  2. More of the backstory is available and I’m surprised you didn’t link to the Microsoft statement. (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/dec09/12-15statement.mspx) The software was copied by a company Microsoft hired to do some work. While I quite agree that someone at Microsoft should have done more checking on the hired work its not quite the same as Microsoft employees doing the stealing.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Thanks for linking to the MS statement, Alfred.

    I disagree that Microsoft should be let off the hook and disassociate with this because they had outsourced the coding. This is like a government agency hiring a contractor to do dirty work so they can maintain “plausible deniability.” They hired for the work to be done, they had a responsibility to insure the work was done with integrity. As I mentioned in the post, just look at the two websites side-by-side. You don’t have to be a coder or uber-geek to see that this was a copycat effort. Microsoft bears the responsibility for this and should be held as accountable for this act as they would if a fulltime employee team stole this code.

  4. I’m not saying that Microsoft should be let off the hook. Rather there are more people to blame. You are not holding the Chinese partner or the outsource company at all to blame. I’m just saying that fairness would include those other entities as culpable. You see to be letting them off the hook. You don’t even mentian them at all and that doesn’t seem fair to me.

  5. guest says:

    I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes, but I ran into a similiar situation at my company. A recent vendor of ours asked me to give them my source code to a particular function and they will modify and maintain the new code. My initial response was no! We have no business partnership with the vendor besides the fact that we bought their product and currently use it as we do with many other products. Many of the products we use are missing functions we need, so instead of customizing the products we develop our own codes and run them on different servers to achieve our business objectives. Do you think I should give the vendor my code so they can modify it and plug it into their product?

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