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.
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?!
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.
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